Last weekend I volunteered with FoodCycle’s London South East hub. They are the longest-standing FoodCycle hub, starting in 2009. They meet and cook together every Sunday from 1:30pm – serving the food at 5pm. They are now partnered up with The Food Chain – and work towards providing healthy and nutritious meals to people living with HIV, and their families.
The food they collect is intercepted from a market and a local Waitrose store. These are organized pick-ups each weekend. The food is always weighed before cooking, totalled categories of where it’s intercepted from.
The start of the session usually means a volunteer induction. This is because often there are new people in the room, so a summary of the kitchen is essential for a smooth cook. The ‘Hub Leader’ takes the task of introducing FoodCycle, orientation of the space, health and safety expectations and answering general questions new volunteers may have. Then, everyone gets on their aprons and hair-nets to get preparing.
FoodCycle works with only vegetarian food, with the aim being to cook up a healthy and nutritious 3-course meal. We had tons of broccoli, so starters turned into a Broccoli and Fennel Soup. Potatoes and swede were boiled and mashed to become the roof of a Shepard’s Pie. All the other vegetables were cooked up and left to simmer in a tomatoey sauce for the base. Then, in the oven it went – while volunteers keep up together with washing up. Another volunteer working on dessert – a fruit salad, with all sorts of fresh berries and cherries.
This hub works with 2 shifts on the rota – which was the first FoodCycle I’d visited in this set-up. The serving shift volunteers come in around 4pm, when there is still one hour left to cook. They set up the tables and cater to any early diners, whilst the kitchen activity continues. Food gets served at 5pm and all is finished by 7pm.
Their meal is a private event for the individuals with HIV and their families, but there are other open Food Cycle hubs in the city. Bloomsbury is one of these – collecting food surplus from a local Planet Organic, then meeting at 1pm every Sunday to cook for the community.