Sunday 28 May is World Hunger Day. Iman Nasser, from our Food Programme Team, has been visiting food projects in the diocese, to see how they can make a difference greater than simply providing essential food. She reports on a day spent volunteering with FoodCycle in White City, where she saw the power of a good meal in bringing a community together.
On Saturday 6th May I joined a volunteer team at White City parish (Our Lady of Fatima) to host the weekly FoodCycle community dining service, which takes place every Saturday at 1pm.
FoodCycle is a charity that uses surplus food to create delicious free three-course (vegetarian) meals once a week in communities. They often take place in church halls and the project at our Lady of Fatima parish is the first to run in in the Diocese of Westminster. And anyone is able to join a meal.
FoodCycle works with other charities, supermarkets, small independent grocery shops and markets to source perfectly edible surplus food in a safe and responsible way. Extra ingredients such as dried foods and spices are purchased by the FoodCycle team to make the meals as nutritious as possible.
The White City FoodCycle volunteer team arrived between 10 and11:30am to start preparing the food and dining set up for lunch at 1pm. The day began with a quick meeting to discuss the plan and cover any questions. The volunteers were energetic, approachable and friendly. There were 2 project leaders, 4 cooks and 7 hosting volunteers including me.
Volunteers for a FoodCycle community meal come from many different communities. They register on the FoodCycle website, complete an online suitability form and health and safety induction, and then can sign up to support a FoodCycle community meal across the charity’s 70 projects.
This particular FoodCycle meal happened to fall on the same day as the Coronation, so the dining hall was decorated to create a celebratory atmosphere with bunting, cakes (provided by the parish) and a large screen to live stream the occasion.
The doors were open early prior to setting up the dining area to allow guests to come and watch the coronation, and have a cup of tea. Meanwhile the volunteers were busy preparing the meals and set-up for a wonderful dining experience. The cooks were busy in the kitchen making lunch, and the hosting team were creating food bags for the guests. In total 65 food bags were made and they contained fruit, cereal bars, milk & milkshakes.
The menu was a three-course meal:
- Starter: sandwiches with a choice of fillings: chickpea or avocado and tomato
- Main: Spaghetti with a tomato sauce accompanied by a couscous and mixed vegetable salad
- Dessert: Fruit salad and freshly baked banana bread
By 12:30pm approximately 40- 60 guests (including children) had made their way to a table. The hosting volunteers began placing the cutlery, glasses and jugs of water on the table at 12:45, and, as the coronation drew to an end at 1pm, began bringing out the starters.
The atmosphere was lively and joyful; the volunteers stayed with the guests, some taking seats next to guests and engaging in friendly discussions.
Between 1 and 2pm more guests joined and this may have been due to the large banner placed outside of the hall welcoming all in the community to the FoodCycle meal.
Many of the guests commented on how positive their experience was and said that the FoodCycle meal was an asset to the local community and should continue as it provides the opportunity to engage with others and socialise, alongside getting a nutritious meal.
As 2pm arrived, the guests started to get ready to leave and each received a food bag as they exited the hall.
Then the volunteers were incredibly professional and responsible, ensuring they washed, cleaned and tidied all equipment, utensils and areas they had used. Leftover fruit and vegetables were added to the compost bins in the parish garden to avoid food waste. They had the parish hall back to its original set-up by 3pm. The team also had a final group discussion and the team leaders thanked everyone for their support and hard work.
FoodCycle offers an important element of food outreach in the form of socialising, which goes beyond the physical needs of food.
The social aspect of food and dining is incredibly important for people’s general wellbeing and can often be unmet in other forms of food outreach, such as food banks. The dining experience also provides a dignified approach to food outreach and unity amongst community members and all involved in the process.
We are delighted that a FoodCycle community meal exists at Our Lady of Fatima and would love to support more parishes and schools to open their doors to FoodCycle volunteers to serve their community.
Interested to have a FoodCycle community meal at your parish or school? Get in touch with the Caritas Food Programme team: email@example.com
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