when a good deed is lentil shaped: stopping food waste in Brighton

Vara Zakaharov of Food Waste Collective having a discussion about potential donors with a commumity chef

Vera Zakaharov of Food Waste Collective having a discussion about potential donors with a commumity chef from Emmaus Brighton.

Friday was one of those days that restored my faith in human nature.  I was in Brighton on behalf of Plan Zheroes supporting The Food Waste Collective’s 2nd food share event, held at University of Brighton’s Moulscoomb campus.

The impetus for this event came from a group of women who call Brighton their home: Vera Zakharov, Mei-Wah Tang, Caitriona Donahoe, Saskia Wesnigk-Wood and Josie Jeffery.

The timing could not have been more apposite: WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) established as an independent not-for-profit company that aims to minimise resource use and divert priority materials from landfill recently published an intriguing report, the  WRAP Review of Waste in the Hospitality and Food Service Sector that looks at how inter alia the UK can make better use of surplus food.

It notes: Redistribution of surplus food so that it is still eaten before it becomes waste, is preventing food waste, e.g. sending surplus food to a charity.

Mei-Wah Tang welcoming two members of a local charity and getting them to sign the PlanZheroes Charity Agreement

Mei-Wah Tang welcoming two members of a local charity and getting them to sign the PlanZheroes Charity Agreement

It was encouraging to see how many young people from many nationalities all getting together to make sure that fewer families are forced to make eat or heat decisions.

As a former Lewesian I was not alone, Pearl and Helen from the Lewes Food Bank were there showing the ‘young bucks’ how to bag up quantities of food into manageable portions.  This is a skill and one that can make a huge difference on the day in terms of reducing waste and saving time for volunteers.

Helen and Pearl from the Lewes Food Bank. Watch out for their bagging up video!

Helen and Pearl from the Lewes Food Bank. Watch out for their bagging up video!

So the ‘dynamic duo’ have both agreed to produce a video that shows others the tricks of the trade. I will provide the link in due course.

Pearl will be in addition establishing a link with Le Magasin in Lewes (the first donor to sign up there last year when I launched the Plan Zheroes intiative in Lewes) who have agreed to supply the Lewes Food Bank one of 3 in the town supported by Mayor, Ruth O’Keefe.

Some of Pearl and Helen's handiwork.

Some of Pearl and Helen’s handiwork.

I heard some wonderful stories of community engagement/ plaudits for Nathan of FareShare Brighton and of the superb work of Emmaus Brighton who grow and cook their own food in Portslade and note:

Research shows that for every £1 invested in a community, there is an £11 social, environmental and economic return, with savings to the benefits bill, health services and a reduction in crime reoffending.

Let me share one initiative just getting off the ground which I think deserves our support.

Sue Saunders of St Andrews School Hove is one of a growing number of parents who are concerned about the increasing levels of obesity among our young children.

Sue Sanders, one of the St Andrews School, Hove's cookery tuition team is looking for a cooker.

Sue Sanders, one of the St Andrews School, Hove’s cookery tuition team is looking for a cooker.

She (and I) bemoan the growth of fast food, TV dinners and the lack of culinary skills among the population. Austerity and consumerism are forcing both parents to work which is impacting family time and conversations over food which is where much social interaction occurs.

So Sue and her team are attempting to teach school children basic cookery skills so they can develop a taste for and interest in good food. Sue was there to pick up ingredients and needs a small cooker so if anyone can help here’s her email address (reproduced with her permission): sussaunders25@hotmail.com.

Apart from the copious amounts of food that was shared, Vera, Mei-Wah and Josie managed to sign up 3 charities to the PlanZheroes food map and registered Food Waste Collective as donors.

Plan Zheroes Food Map on Mei-Wah's iPad

Plan Zheroes Food Map on Mei-Wah’s iPad

Perhaps the most gratifying aspect of the visit was to see the enthusiasm among everyone who was giving up their time and skills to try and make a difference to the lives of people who are less fortunate.

At a time when immigration is in the spotlight it was noticeable that the volunteers came from a wide cross section of nationalities and ethnic background where food and community support are more of an ingrained part of the social fabric.

Plan Zheroes is delighted to have been able to support the Food Waste Collective.

scores on the doors

From Vera:

our end of event stats:

27 volunteers + 3 pallets of surplus food x 8 hours = 19 food projects and charities happily receiving much-needed food donations.

So far, since the first event in August, we have distributed over 3 tonnes of perfectly good, healthy delicious dry goods to local projects.

eat or heat: making the most of surplus food in 2013

A perfect food storm in 2013?

The rising cost of energy, food and transport combined with an effective reduction in disposable incomes meant many people went without this Christmas. Add in the Government’s drive for savings in the benefits budget, the cap on housing benefit and insufficient social housing and there are all the ingredients for the perfect food storm in 2013.  For the first time food is being delivered to centres in Lewes and there is talk of a Food Bank being set up mirroring initiatives in Uckfield, Heathfield, Hailsham and across the South. Many are now making eat or heat decisions and the growth in the incidence of food shoplifting bears witness to an increasing sense of desperation.

FareShare, Foodbanks and Plan Zheroes

Schemes such as FareShare (surplus food logistics) and Tressell Trust (Food Banks) tackle this need by redistributing surplus packaged food and tinned goods donated by supermarkets, food outlets and faith centres that would otherwise have gone straight to landfill.  Despite this the UK Food industry still sends millions of tonnes of prepared and cooked food to waste each year.  A group of London citizens believed it didn’t have to be this way and set up Plan Zheroes a charitable organisation that helps redistribute surplus food from restaurants,  food retailers, cafes and supermarkets to charities who then use it to feed those who are struggling to feed themselves.

Its so simple: the donor registers as a regular or occasional donor and indicates what surplus they are likely to have and when; the recipient registers to receive food specifying the type and quantity they are likely to require and how they’d like to pick it up or receive it.

Plan Zheroes in Sussex

Now this scheme is operating in Sussex and this Monday the V-Project set up in Lewes by a group of youngsters keen to provide a space for peer mentoring became the first recipient charity to sign up to take surplus food from Lewes based donors, East Sussex County Council, The Pelham Arms and Le Magasin.

In partnership with FareShare, Brighton, PlanZheroes is working on setting up new supply chains in Newhaven with NCDA and The Foyer (Salvation Army Housing Association residence for young people) and Uckfield.  More charity recipients and food donors are needed in Brighton, Lewes, Newhaven and Uckfield; all it takes is a couple of minutes to register on the PlanZheroes food map which you can find via their website.

One of our strongest supporters has been Councillor Ruth O’Keeffe who apart from promoting the Plan Zheroes initiative via her Radio Lewes programme has set up a meeting early in 2013 to try and consolidate all the various actitivities around making use of surplus food: Ruth helped launch the FareShare deliveries to Lewes and works tirelessly to ensure the less fortunate members of her consituencies have food on their tables.

And finally during a visit to Waitrose Lewes on Sunday afternoon I came across dozens of ‘unwanted’ red cabbages that were marked down in price.  Thanks to one of the partners Nikki we are now in dialogue with their local management about enrolling them as an occasional donor working alongside their other surplus food distribution channels.

from Oxford Street to Tottenham Court Road in a rucksack

I am in London ahead of the Plan Zheroes (re) launch at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) and wanted to share a story that illustrates how effective it can be:A few weeks ago one of the leading department stores in Oxford Street signed the Plan Zheroes agreement to provide a charity in Tottenham Court Road with surplus food. The logistical challenge: how to get it there, quickly and at minimal cost.

PlanZheroes proposed a solution: use members of outdoor gyms who’d made themselves available to ‘run the food’ the length of Oxford Street to its destination in rucksacks on their backs.

With more than a week to go Lewes’ inaugural Knowledge Cafe on making use of surplus food is booking up fast. Thus far we have a mixture of: councillors; publicans; volunteer groups; charities; centres of worship; general practitioners; and opinion formers. The geographical spread is equally impressive: Lewes in the centre; Uckfield and Wealden in the North; Seaford and Newhaven in the South; Eastbourne in the East; and Hove in the West.

It’s promising to be an interesting evening. Le Magasin are going to be serving up some wonderful crostini, crudites and Mediterranean meats washed down with the odd carafe or two to stimluate conversation.

Knowledge Cafe venue

If you haven’t signed up yet and want to here’s the link: Knowledge Cafe: Making Use of Surplus Food

I was particulary delighted to take a very supportive call from Councillor Tony Nicholson, Leader of Lewes District Council; to have Ruth O’Keeffe and Ian Eiloart involved; and to have opened a very constructive dialogue with LDC officials all of whom have been keen to help.

At last night’s RSA event the Plan Zheroes exhibit was inundated with expressions of support and interest from the 200 or so invited guests.

Maria Ana Neves answering questions from some of the many visitors to the Plan Zheroes exhibit at RSA Innovate evening

On the same subject.This quote hit me in an article I was reading last week on food waste in easyJet’s in flight magazine.

we have one garbage bin and 100 seats

What struck me is how through careful husbandry restaurateurs have been able to dramatically cut the amount they throw away; it also confirmed that food establishments do produce surplus food.

What a waste

See you on the 24th.