Awash with Artichokes: making the most of surplus food at Borough Market – Risotto Primavera

Artichokes are aartichokes-for-good-healthn acquired taste but when you are hungry they are delicious. This is a recipe with basic ingredients: a few determined people, a dash of technology (soon to be enhanced), a sprinkling of generous traders and a huge dose of imagination from the cooks who mixed ingredients.

Week One: from small beginnings – 5 traders, 1 charity (Dragon’s Cafe)

After a little bit of encouragement from Charlotte Jarman (an Anthropolgist project manager of FoodSave project at Sustain who has helped to develop tourism projects with coffee-growing communities in Peru and Tanzania), aided and abetted by Plan Zheroes, London’s Borough Market adopted the idea of making surplus food donations.
The scheme begain in June and received good local press coverage, here’s what Sustain said: London’s Borough Market sends surplus food for use by a local charity.’

The first week’s donations got a lot of publicity including London SE1 Community Website. One of its reader’s, Abi Todd got in touch:

Hi Plan Zheroes

I read the article on SE1 about linking up food from Borough Market with the Dragon Café. Your work sounds amazing and I would love for us to get involved.

I manage a young people’s hostel for 116 vulnerable people aged 16-21 in Borough. We are making frequent use of Food Banks and I would be really interested in investigating if we can link with local food suppliers to supplement this. many of our young people are sanctioned for long periods of time, and food poverty and poor nutrition are rife.

The organisation I work for is Look Ahead Care and Support , and I attach our service leaflet so you can see a little of what we do.

Do get in touch if you think we could work together on this.

So we did!  We asked Abi to create a profile on the Plan Zheroes map, sign the charity agreement and connected her with Charlotte at Sustain; one week later they were ready to collect surplus food.

Week Two: ‘exit the Dragon’ (temporarily); enter Look Ahead

With the Dragon Cafe unable to receive a donation Look Ahead steps in. By now word has spread and volunteers appear from Plan Zheroes and Sustain to help collect and distribute the surplus food. Sustain and Charlotte

Jacopo of Plan Zheroes weighs donations and we record details, the volunteers from Look Ahead pack it and take it to the charity. Charlotte (of Sustain) registers donations week by week, so we all have an idea of what and how much is being donated.

There was much more food to take LookAheadand Jaqueline from Look Ahead, came with one young person and one (very) big bag… luckily they also had money to call a taxi!

At the donation collection point, we had a surprise: an unusual donation of artichokes. Jaqueline’s face, was a picture: we wondered if she knew how to cook and eat Artichokes… and secretly Jaqueline was already wondering if the young people they help would like it!

We raised the issue her face had betrayed and Jaqueline shared they run a weekly “Masterchef’ session, wondering if we would be able to run one with them for the Artichokes?!  Abi replied again:

On Thursdays we run “masterchef” sessions where staff or young people run cooking sessions. It’s a really well established feature of our week at Gateway and your support with making use of donations would be really appreciated.

Week Three: Masterchef Ivan and the Artichokes class

IvanOf course the next step was to engage Ivan Cubillo – a Zheroes Volunteer, who is a professional chef and just graduated as Nutritionist, here is what he said:

“Artichokes are a bit tricky but once you know what to do with them are delicious!! I know few tricks to cook them with not much hussle.”

So now everything is set up, Ivan is running a MasterChef session on Artichokes.

And the story has a happy ending:

We now have to wait and see when Ivan goes to Look Ahead – Gateway for the Masterchef. Meantime over 150kgs of food was prevented from waste, and 180 young people have access to delicious food from their very local Borough Market!

Back to Abi who confirmed inter alia that:

We can definitely commit to Saturday collections over the Summer. We could handle more – mostly so far we’ve just been giving it straight out to residents, who have been cooking it themselves, but there is a fair bit of scope for us doing communal cooking activities as well. (Ivan is coming on Friday to meet me to discuss)

The veg fits in well with our ‘Healthy Conversations’ programme which is all about encouraging better lifestyles and choices, so we are happy to facilitate as much healthy stuff coming into Gateway as possible.

I counted 7 pallets yesterday, and we also had about 4 cardboard boxes.

The role of a food knowledge broker is never dull and once the wonderful new mobile application is launched from next month, thanks to our friends at Keytree who have given us massive support, we at Plan Zheroes will be able to do so much more and help make much better use of surplus food. Here’s a sneak preview of how a conversation between a donor and a recipient might go:

PZ Wire frames - mobile1 Jul14Even if you can’t help with effort as a volunteer or food as a donor you will be able to by making a financial contribution. Plan Zheroes is a registered charity and like all not for profit organisations we need funds to keep afloat.  Thanks for reading this and watch this space for the results of the Masterchef session.

Now that’s what I call an imaginative use of Artichokes – Risotto Primavera:

Here is Ivan’s account of his MasterChef class

Today it was a good day at Look Ahead. The participants showed commitment and good attitude troughout the session. Tommy who works at Look Ahead helped wonders and it was a fun person to be around. Soda bread was a huge success and although we had to tweak the recipe a little bit, the result was amazing! On Monday, the charity received/collected asparagus, broad beans, spring onions, kale, broccoli and (as Tommy said) “lopads” of carrots. With such as a good variety of produces the choice was obvious: Risotto Primavera! After frying the onions and garlic we add some carrots chopped up nicely. Then we add our rice (no rissotto rice? No Problem!) Tesco did not have risotto rice so we end up using long grain rice (Challenged accepted!). Once we add the rice we started stirring our rice to release all the starch…adding slowly our lovely beef stock  was next (Thanks stock cubes!) and when our rice was almost done we added the broad beans and asparagus (they were previously blanched) and  finished the rissotto with butter and cheddar cheese (parmigiano a bit too expensive for our budget). And the Artichokes? Well, we almost forgot the artichokes! (Here is where the Chefs skills come in handy) Quickly we peeled a couple of them, thinly sliced them and sauteed them with garlic and onions, we add a bit of water until they were nice and soft. The par-roasted artichokes looked delicious on top of our rissotto and the guys in the workshop loved them. Overall, great experience in Borough Road, people loved me (no wonder!) and I loved them, so “this could be beginning of a beatiful friendship”.



Rissota Primavera

10 tips for running a successful Pause & Reflect debrief

David Gurteen rang me just before Christmas.  He’d read my recent blog post about the  Pause & Reflect (P&R) debrief session I was running for the Brighton Food Waste Colllective and wanted to understand how it differed from an After Action Review (AAR).

Here’s what I told him and via this link his observations on the technique:

In a P&R debrief the team (with the help of the Facilitator) is attempting to go beyond the questions posed by an AAR: what was supposed to happen; what did actually happen; what went well; and what might we do differently next time?

While these are valid areas of investigation they tend not to address the how or why an event succeeded or failed and overlook aspects of behaviour, space and culture.

P&R sessions look at all of these through the use of timelines and objects by recreating what happened formally and informally, before the event, during the event and after the event.

The technique I like to use is an A3 version of the Narrative Grid about which I’ve written before.

By way of an example (and with the kind permission of Vera, Mei-Weh and Saskia) I’d like to draw on the recent P&R session in Brighton.

Food Waste Collective Pause & Reflect:

We met informally at a quirky venue (Blue Man Bar) in Brighton. Despite background noise the team were able to raise and openly discuss the event. Here’s what I asked them to think about in advance:

The aim is to identify learning’s from the recent Food Collective Event that you might apply to current and future events. This session is best done with a timeline /narrative grid and I will ask these questions for each stage (Before/During/After):

*     What was expected to happen?

*     What actually occurred?

*     What went well and why?

*     What can be improved and how? And finally,

*     What behaviours in others did you most admire / find most useful?

I will take notes so you just need to bring along your keen minds, memories, observations and most importantly a photo or object from the event.

some key outcomes:

The session designed primarily as a capacity building/knowledge transfer session lasted but an hour.  In that time a couple of key outcomes emerged and each of the team was able to highlight behaviours in others that made a real difference.  It underpinned my belief that by being appreciative in the approach to debriefs and focusing on events a lot more emerges.

Here’s an extract from the notes I took:

P&R Outcomes Dec13

when, where and how to use a Pause & Reflect?

Here are 10 suggestions on how to make it work:

  1. use it to conduct a debrief on an event or decision that has taken place in the last month
  2. use pictures and objects from the event or decision to amplify key moments and trigger memories – brief them about the need to bring something along
  3. get people to fill in the narrative grid / timeline as they go and if you have different cultures involved ask different groups to fill in their own timelines – in the process of comparing you will discover much
  4. probe by asking for examples – in the above case the need to get volunteers on a Thursday to help unload FareShare vans emerged only by going through the event step by step
  5. when someone makes a comment such as ‘it was so organised when I arrived’ get them to elaborate and contrast – it will generate a story that becomes an important narrative of the event
  6. make the session informal (and reflective of the organisational culture) but do have an agenda and stick to it – be clear about the roles each one is playing at the P&R
  7. get participants to talk about the environment and location where the event or decision you are holding a P&R about took place
  8. don’t be afraid to let the silence hang in sticky moments – behaviours (most admired which might have made an event successful) often emerge slowly
  9. ensure (with permissions) that you take photos of the P&R and include them in the write up
  10. finally, don’t be too ambitious: 3 hours is the maximum I’ve found works and look at 1 event or decision not a whole project.



“… a brilliant and eye opening experience”: using ‘The Apprentice’ format for a good cause

This quote, from one of the Accenture team who took part in a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) volunteer day in blistering conditions at Islington, London a few weeks back, was in response to a question I posed at the conclusion of the event:

Q) As you leave: if someone in the office asked you about the day what would you say?

A) ‘Was a great day with a chance to do some real good.’ was another participant’s reply.

Those who follow my musings will know how honoured I am to be invited to become a founder trustee of the charity PlanZheroes (PZ) who aim to help make use of surplus food. The CSR day, one of a number of imaginative ‘offerings’ PZ developed, gives organisations and their employees a chance to put something back into their community while concurrently testing their innovation, teamwork, sales, negotiation and project management skills in a real life setting.

‘…your task…’

To make the day really energetic PZ introduced an Apprentice-style competitive element. Fifteen people, three teams, three separate areas of London: Who will raise most awareness and get most businesses and charities added to the map?

I was there with CEO Designate Maria Ana Neves and a team from PZ whose role was to shadow the teams as they made their way around Islington and to provide input for the debrief session that was to end the day.

The 16 participants began by introducing themselves and noting something that others might not know about them. This was to prove a great kick off session, part of the briefing to equip them for the time they were about to spend out and about in Islington.  We asked later what they’d expected:

Q) On arrival what were you expectations?

A) I did not expect the day to be as organised as it was or to have such supportive helpers

fired up and ready to go

Briefing over and armed with PZ badges and little books each team spent a while perfecting their strategy, the messages they were going to give to the organisations they met and who would be doing what.  A large part of the challenge of approaching food outlets is to recognise that surplus food is a natural by product of the suply chain, hence we advised them to avoid using the word ‘waste’.


We were not to see them now for 5 hours so Maria Ana and I monitoroed their progress via Twitter and the PZ Map updated as contacts were made and organisations signed up.

The teams assembled back at base just before 4pm for the debrief. I asked them to use a timeline as a prompt to describe what happened, when and who was involved with a further commentary as to how they overcame difficult moments.

One of the team's timelines

One of the team’s timelines

Though lighthearted it gave the teams (and a senior manager who joined at this point) a chance to compare and contrast: what had worked and what hadn’t; where did they get pushback, from whom (and why)?

amazing results

Before revealing the results Maria Ana asked the teams to develop a one sentence ‘why we should win’ statement. The ‘results’ were amazing:

Announcing the scores

Announcing the scores

  • 14 new businesses on the map & 1 new charity sign-up
  • 35 businesses to follow up & 2 new charities to follow-up
  • one team even walked to Holborn to talk with Sainsbury’s head office
  • two teams got their lunches for free (or part of it!)
  • 130 mix of facebook likes and tweets/followers and we were told one celebrity chef is supporting us (details to find)

Perhaps the most value though comes from the way the teams come together and the roles they play throughout the day. Here’s a couple of responses to my question about role models:

Q) Role model: who did you admire during the day and why – tell us about what they did?

A) One memeber of the team really came out of their shell and were particularly confident when approaching businesses …

A) …The person was awesome and I think I have learnt some people skills that day.

To learn more about Plan Zheroes’ special days for volunteers and organisations please contract us via the PZ website

Brighton’s Food Waste Collective to run ‘making use of surplus food’ event

I met a woman last week in a cafe in Eastbourne.  Her name was Tam, a young Buddhist with a passion for helping others less fortunate. She is a member of the Brighton Food Waste Collective and she’d come from Brighton to interview me about the ‘making use of surplus food’ initiative I set up in Lewes in 2012.

Tam and her team are going to be running an event in a couple of week’s time which I’d heartliy endorse and not just because Maria Ana Neves of Plan Zheroes (she was a great hit in Lewes) is speaking.

food waste collective event posterTo be held at Brighthelm Cafe in North Road Brighton its going to be a real opportunity for donors and charities to come together and see how they might make use of a host of willing volunteers keen to make a difference.

In the hope it might help others who are thinking about a similar activity I want to share something from the excellent interview notes Tam took and published.

‘He said that there are the two ends, who wants and who has to give but it is the middle that creates the logistical nightmares – the getting the food from a to b. I talked about there having to have leaders and ideas people and the technology of the map but also we need the “foot soldiers” – the bodies, cars and bicycles to move daily food from a to b. This is what our event can find. People! Willing people! Hurray 🙂

Paul then asked if I would like some advice, I said yes please! He said “my experience tells me that…” in a nutshell he suggested starting small and high lighting six charities representing “demand”, and six restaurants or shops representing “supply” then set a finite time scale of six months to put only those twelve into action. Make pilot projects! Then he suggests we re-assess and see what has worked? What has failed? Why? He suggested treating it like a research project. He suggested using Google Groups (?) He said “Don’t spread yourself too thin!” Also, which I adored, “Don’t attempt to boil the ocean!”

Paul suggested making objectives: Can we identify the demand? Can we identify the supply? Develop a picture. Two ends – who wants? Who has to give? Make a brief: identify potential charities to supply to….

Paul talked about reverse brain storming – I love this – it’s a technique where you ask the people at the event “what are the best ways to prevent the food getting from a to b?” “How can we make sure the food is wasted/rots/has to go in the landfill?” “How would you ensure that the surplus food re-distribution chain would not work?” He described how he uses this technique in his professional life to get folks’ brains to work in a different way.’

Plan Zheroes is moving ahead apace with plans to be come a registered charity and I am honoured to have been invited to become one of the founding Trustees to provide a focus on knowledge sharing. This is what sets Plan Zheroes apart.  As its evolving technology platforms get completed it will be able to provide an instant view of where surplus food is located and so match the charities who need it with those who have it to give.  It’s skill is then in coming up with innovative solutions on how to get it from A-B.

And by making the knowledge of how to set up an initiative (and a guide for volunteer management) Plan Zheroes is attempting to help replicate the model (here and overseas) that is working so well in London.

Good luck Tam and the Brighton Food Waste Collective!