On Wednesday 17th January in the dark atmospheric basement of the Left Bank Speakeasy around 25 people came together to shed light on local food waste, with the aim of developing some local grass root community responses.
Tony Kennall and Patrick Vansloun of the Worcester Food Rescue project described their impressively organised approach to their city food waste. They took us step by step from their initial discussions with supermarkets through to coping with Christmas 2017 – and the huge volume of surplus food they have been able to keep out of landfill and re-distribute to communities over this period … and the mountain of landfill food waste that is still beyond them.
Jacqui Allsop of Hereford Food Bank brought us up to date with the situation in Hereford city. The Food Bank provides emergency food to those who have been referred to the service. Hereford Food Bank has only very limited capacity to store donated food, and has to carefully manage the logistics of collection and re-distribution of food, and the constantly increasing referrals from local agencies. Jacqui also described hot food provision in the city – which is available daily to anyone who needs it.
Peter Norton of Brightspace Foundation then focused on the issues of hunger and food insecurity. A recent Oxfam report showed that more than 500,000 people in the UK are now dependent on food parcels… a shocking figure in the 7th most wealthy nation in the world. In Herefordshire more than 2000 people accessed the food bank last year, and as Jacqui described this figure only includes those in crisis and referred into the service. Countless others are invisible to the statisticians – and it is partly in response to those in need but not receiving help that Pete is developing a Food Poverty Alliance for Herefordshire.
The presentations left us all thinking, and after some discussion and mindmapping of ideas the group highlighted some possible areas of interest & action to take forward. We particularly focused on the problems of rural isolation and the cost of local public transport, and the need for support to be made more available within our rural communities.
- Community Food Hubs. We discussed various approaches to the idea of a Food Hub:
- A model that would work in the same way as local Food Assemblies (links below)
- Community Fridge. This might be based at a central location but with local outlets in the villages around Herefordshire.
- Food Social Clubs – making use of existing local centres such as churches and community centres and combining food collection (either direct from Supermarkets following the Food Rescue approach or from a central Community Fridge) and distribution that would be available for all. This could be supported by local social activities such as cooking, preserving, shared music and gleaning.
- Gleaning – using surplus food direct from growers. People suggested that we might explore working with local growers such as Arkstone Mill or Canon Frome Court, and explore options around juicing fruit to ensure it can be stored and used. For more information there are links below to Worcester Gleaning group and West Country Gleaners.
- School Holiday Food Clubs. Peter described statistics that show 3 million children currently go hungry during school holidays, and activities around schools as food distribution and provision centres are increasingly important. Holiday projects based in our local schools could include food growing and cooking alongside other activities. Funding would be needed to cover the cost of heating and cooking, and projects might need to borrow community centre kitchens. Saxon Hall in Hereford already offers a holiday club on this basis.
- Legislation. It was broadly agreed that tackling the root problems of surplus is paramount, with people suggesting that supermarkets should be fined for overstocking. Changing the law on ‘best before’ dates should also be considered.
We will return to food insecurity as an issue at our HGN Gathering on the 16th May 2018. If in the meantime anyone would like to start to explore ways of developing one of these ideas – or other ideas, such as the city Food Rescue project – please get in touch and HGN will support you.
More information is given via the links below.
And if you would like to donate to the Hereford Food Bank ideally phone or email to see what they need before going along. Please also always ensure that food is within its best before date, otherwise the Food Bank has to pay for its disposal as ‘waste’…
Herefordshire Food Poverty Alliance: Good Food For All
The Gleaning Network
To get in touch with HGN email firstname.lastname@example.org