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Case Study: FoodCycle

In this video, Lucy Swain from FoodCycle talks about their work in tackling food waste and food poverty in Bristol.
FoodCycle is a project which uses surplus food and saves it from going to waste and cook it up into a delicious meal every Saturday, in Bristol. Cyclists collect all the food, so we go down Gloucester Road, Easton and pick up food from small shops that essentially would be throwing it away if we didn’t collect it, because it’s not beautiful. So the cyclists pick it all up in trailers, bring it to here and then we have a team of cooks and a team of hosts who cook up the meal and serve it out to anyone who’d like it.
FoodCycle is a nationwide organisation and it started in London in 2008, I believe, by a Canadian who came over and set up the first one at Imperial and LSE. And then Bristol got on board and thought ‘this is great we’re going to do the same.’ So I think it was a group of students that set it up originally from Bristol Uni and we are still supported by a lot of students as volunteers. But we also have people who are working, some people who are unemployed, so that’s great diversity. And we are quite unique as a hub because we’re the only hubs that cycles, which some people think, ‘well FoodCycle, that’s surely in the name,’ but no it’s actually just us.
I think a lot of people who come to FoodCycle come for the community aspect, a lot of people are actually eating alone most days a week. Loneliness is a real issue. So coming together, we have such a great community atmosphere on a Saturday, so just to have that, I think a lot of people come for that, as well as of course, a delicious meal. A couple of weeks ago, we had a really great session. If was someone’s birthday and one of our regulars, Tony, and the cooking team cooked up a cake, I think put candles on it and sung for him, and the whole hall sang and his whole face lit up and he was so touched by it.
I think it really made his day, perhaps even his week, it was really a nice touch. Things like that, sometimes doing the small little things actually you don’t realise how much of an amazing impact they have on people.
We’ve recently started doing a Wednesday meal too, so catering for more people and reducing even more food from going to waste, that’s on the last Wednesday of every month. Originally the numbers were so low it was almost just the volunteers cooking, which can be quite disheartening when you’ve put in so much time and effort to cook up a big meal and there’s only a few of you around the table. But now numbers have properly gone up, the last one we did we had a full house and it was great. I think it just takes sometimes a few tweaks, so we made it a little bit earlier to fit in with classes that finished at the settlement.
And now we have a really different demographic that come on a Wednesday and a great atmosphere, it’s fantastic. It’s sometimes a challenge because I work full time and this is quite a lot of work on top of my day job, I guess, but it’s really fantastic, I’ve made so many friends through it as well. You create quite strong friendships with the people you work with because, you know, we’re communicating most days of the week and we cater for some great events and I guess I’ve made a lot of friends through it, I’ve learned about efficient communication, volunteer management and sometimes making decisions that aren’t always easy I guess.
I’d say that there are so many opportunities out there, there are so many great things going on, project, organisations, charities that you can afford to be picky, so whatever your passion is, whatever you really care about, do it, find it and get involved. I’m sure along the way you’re going to meet like-minded people who might become really close friends and you will learn so much more about that cause.

The Barton Hill Settlement was established in 1911 to support community development in East Bristol. Its facilities and services are used by many organisations, including FoodCycle. Each weekend, this community project collects surplus food from local retailers and make nutritious meals for those who need it.

FoodCycle addresses two important global issues, food waste and food poverty. It also alleviates social isolation and brings the community closer together. FoodCycle’s vision is to create ‘a society where no one is hungry or lonely’.

Volunteers are drawn from the local community and Bristol’s two universities. Each volunteer can contribute in different ways. Some cycle to visit shops early in the morning to collect food. Travelling by bicycle limits the group’s carbon footprint. Other volunteers also give their time to cook and host guests at the community kitchen. Fundraising events are also held in other locations.

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