Octopus Giving Reading time: 4 mins

10 questions for our new charity partner FoodCycle

21 Feb 2018

What’s your mission?

FoodCycle’s mission is to unite and nourish communities using surplus food.

How did FoodCycle get started?

Kelvin Chung founded FoodCycle in 2008, combining his love for food, cooking and community with a growing frustration with food waste. The first ever FoodCycle cook took place in May 2009, with a group of determined volunteers and a mixing pot of rescued food. From that first cook has blossomed 34 projects across the country that continue to bring communities together with delicious and hearty meals.

What type of activities do you do?

FoodCycle volunteer-powered projects collect surplus food from local supermarkets and shops and use it to create nutritious, three-course, community meals for people who may be hungry or lonely. Our guests and volunteers sit down together to eat, brought together by a tasty vegetarian meal. This year we’ve served over 67,700 meals, reclaimed over 94,000 tonnes of food and opened six new projects in the East of England and the South West of England.

How will Octopus Giving make a difference to the work you do?

We are hugely excited to have been chosen by Octopus Giving to be their charity partner for the next three years. The income from this will part fund the opening of six new projects in the East of England and the South West of England. Over three years we estimate this will help us serve an additional 18,000 three-course meals, rescue a further 23 tonnes of surplus food, and have an extra 1,000 people contributing an additional 10,700 volunteering hours.

What would get you closer to achieving your mission?

FoodCycle really is a charity that is all about people. Ultimately, it’s the fantastic volunteers who come forward and give their time so freely in their communities that makes the huge difference and helps us achieve our mission in 34 locations. We would like to be in 50 locations within the next three years. This requires the perfect mix of a community in need, fantastic volunteers, a spare commercial kitchen space and surplus food that can readily be turned into hearty meals.

What is FoodCycle working on right now?

In our existing projects, we are looking to deepen our impact. We are doing this through more guest outreach and equipping our Project Leader volunteers with the skills to be able to help our vulnerable guests. This includes bespoke safeguarding training, mental health first aid training and first aid training. We are also starting work on providing our guests with information about other services. As our guests have complex needs, it is great when our volunteers can provide information to inform them where they might seek help.

What things do you worry about?

Food supply is the most unpredictable part of the FoodCycle model. Occasionally you can turn up to a supermarket and there is no food, perhaps because staff have changed and the person now responsible for surplus food is unaware of our collection. If that happens, we purchase food so that people who are expecting a meal are still fed.

It can be equally challenging getting too much food. Sometimes we collect a huge amount of food, enough to feed that day’s guests many times over. But if guests do not have cooking facilities, then very occasionally we are unable to use that food. However, at most of our projects we are able to re-distribute when we receive too much food by giving out Tupperware boxes of leftovers and carrier bags of extra unused surplus. This is welcomed by our guests, many who are struggling to make ends meet.

What are you most proud of?

I am hugely proud of our volunteers. They are remarkable. They work so hard to ensure our guests are well looked after. In a recent survey, our guests valued the service they receive from volunteers more than anything else. This was closely followed by the food, but it demonstrates the care and attention our volunteers give to our guests, and this is how they feel valued. 

“In the past 12 months, our volunteers have dedicated 55,000 hours of their time to create 67,700 meals from surplus food. That’s a lot of chopping, peeling, preparing, washing up and hosting.”

What makes you positive about the future?

The support from Octopus will make a huge difference, and we estimate it will result in the following positive outcomes:

  • 60% of FoodCycle guests will know more about healthy eating and will be eating healthier at home.
  • 70% will have tried new foods, with 62% eating more fruit and vegetables.
  • 65% of guests will have made new friends, feel valued and feel part of the community.

How can people get involved?

There are a wonderful variety of ways people can volunteer! You can join us to be part of collecting surplus food, as a cook helping prepare the meals, or as a hosting volunteer by chatting and  serving guests. Alternatively, you could become a project leader – helping helping to make sure our projects keep on serving up bowls full of goodness. All roles are incredibly rewarding in different ways and there is something for everybody so head to our website to sign up!

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