Meet the volunteer cooks using leftovers to feed their community

28 September 2018 | West Midlands

foodcycle meal trays

Foodcycle in Birmingham serves up a delicious veggie feast for 50 people every Sunday

It’s a cooking challenge like no other.

Every weekend a group of volunteers sort through up to 150kg of food to plan and cook a communal meal for local people.

Birmingham FoodCycle turns surplus ingredients from supermarkets into a three-course vegetarian meal for up to 50 people a week. Some diners may be homeless or struggling financially, others lack access to healthy foods, and some may simply be isolated or physically unable to cook.

The weekly meal brings them all together to break bread at Birmingham Settlement, a community centre in Aston.

The project is a fantastic example of people coming together to help others in their local area.

Student Rebekah Henriques, one of the project leaders, said: “Aston Villa’s football ground is just next door but this is not a privileged area.

“The people that come to eat with us might be living on the poverty line and this is the only fruit and veg they eat all week.

“Some of them don’t even have a microwave to heat up food at home.”

Each week around ten volunteers collect produce that has passed its best before date from the local Morrisons store on Saturdays and set to work on Sunday producing starters, mains and desserts. They also receive bread from the university bakery.

The meal is served up between 1.30pm and 3.30pm and often includes homemade soups and freshly baked cakes.

The menu is vegetarian for food safety reasons and to ensure diners get a healthy meal.

Rebekah, 20, said: “We receive 100 to 150 kg of surplus food a week and anything we don’t use, we send people home with.

“Our diners come to enjoy the community and the environment as much as the food.

“We have two rooms – one for families where children are free to play and one for older guests to relax and chat.

“The volunteers range from students to retirees and one of the reasons they get involved is because you get to meet such diverse people.”

The project is part of the national FoodCycle movement, which has been running for nine years.

Volunteer Amira Hosny Ibrahim, 20, said: “I love chatting with guests and feeling that maybe after talking to me, they feel less lonely, even if just for the day.”

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