This week I decided to head to Byker Community Centre to volunteer as a cook with FoodCyle Byker! I also spoke to project leaders Zoe and Yoli about what FoodCycle has achieved in Byker and why volunteers are so important. Read on to find out how I got on…
What is FoodCycle?
FoodCycle is a UK charity that aims to cut down food waste while also feeding local communities.
The idea is that volunteers collect surplus food that would otherwise go to waste, and cook it up into a delicious meal for those who need it.
FoodCycle Byker is a relatively recent addition to the community, but has already had a very positive impact. Every Monday lunchtime, volunteers here come together to cook a three-course vegetarian meal which is free for anyone who wants to come along and enjoy it. The project typically serves 10-25 guests every week.
The food itself comes from multiple different sources. Four local supermarkets currently provide FoodCycle Byker with their surplus food that they plan to throw out, and during the summer the project also receives some food from allotment surpluses.
Other than occasionally having to buy basic ingredients such as oil, salt and pepper, the project runs entirely off of food that would otherwise go to waste.
Since arriving in Byker, FoodCycle has had a significant impact on the local community. Project leader Zoe Deans, who helped to set up the Byker project in June 2018, said:
“I think that the project has definitely helped the guests socially. For example, there’s an elderly gentleman who comes in every week and he always says he comes just to have someone to chat to. He always dresses up in his best suit for it. For him, it’s the point in the week that he gets to enjoy and have something to look forward to.
“During the summer holidays we had a lot of younger kids coming, so financially the project helped parents feed their whole family over the summer. We pretty much always have a very heavy fruit and veg meal so it’s also really healthy.
“It also helps the community in that the volunteers enjoy it – we’ve all met and made friends as a result of the project. I think it’s an all-round positive thing.”
There are several different volunteer roles on offer at FoodCycle to get involved in. From cooking and hosting, to collecting the food and organising the volunteers, there’s something to suit everyone.
Since you can sign up to volunteer on a one-off basis, this is an ideal opportunity for students who may not have time to commit to volunteering regularly due to busy study schedules.
According to project leader Yoliswa Yabantu, volunteering at FoodCycle can be hugely beneficial students in particular. She said:
“Volunteering gives you valuable experience, which is what everybody needs. Especially for students when you’re about to go out into the real world.
“I wish I had volunteered while I was in Uni because what I’ve experienced now, especially when it comes to job searching, is that volunteering is definitely beneficial.
“For example, in my case, when applying for kitchen roles having this cooking experience at FoodCycle shows that I like to do it, I take time out to do it and I’m passionate about it.
“It would be nice to see more students volunteering here and it would also be great to see what new meal ideas they can come up with and work with us to create.”
Check out the video below to find out about my experience of volunteering as a cook at FoodCycle Byker!
Overall, I think that FoodCycle Byker is a great initiative within the community for reducing food poverty, preventing loneliness, and helping the environment by minimising food waste.
I had a fantastic time volunteering there, and would definitely recommend this to students as a great way to give back to your local community while having fun and meeting new people.
How can I get involved?
As mentioned in the video, all you have to do to get involved is head to the FoodCycle website and search for your nearest project! After you’ve registered an account, you can then sign up to the volunteer role of your choice.
That’s it for this week’s blog post – stay tuned to find out which volunteering activity I get up to next week!
See you next week!