Norwich group saves more than 22 tonnes of food since it opened six years ago

Norwich Foodcycle volunteers and hub leaders. Photo: Geraldine Scott

Norwich Foodcycle volunteers and hub leaders. Photo: Geraldine Scott - Credit: Geraldine Scott

More than 10m tonnes of food is wasted in the UK every year, at a cost of around £17bn.

Foodcycle Norwich. Joey Kuna and Taylor Shaw (on bikes), who collect the food, with stallholders fro

Foodcycle Norwich. Joey Kuna and Taylor Shaw (on bikes), who collect the food, with stallholders from Norwich market who donate. Photo: Geraldine Scott - Credit: Geraldine Scott

But one group in Norwich is working to reduce the amount of food thrown away in our city, by cooking hearty, healthy meals for those who may not otherwise afford to eat, or who are lonely.

And since they set up six years ago, Foodcycle Norwich have served more than 16,000 meals and diverted more than 22 tonnes of food from going straight to landfill.

It all begins when volunteers Joey Kuna, and his girlfriend Taylor Shaw, set out on their bikes for a four-hour round trip, where they collect leftover food from retailers around the city.

'It's not difficult when you're used to it,' said Mr Kuna, 25, who has been volunteering with the group for four years.

Volunteer Chris Harris in the kitchen at Norwich Foodcycle. Photo: Geraldine Scott

Volunteer Chris Harris in the kitchen at Norwich Foodcycle. Photo: Geraldine Scott - Credit: Geraldine Scott

'I do the collection of the food on Friday's on bicycles with trailers attached, it can be a long day but it's a bit of a tradition with Foodcycle Norwich that we do the collection by bicycle because that was how it started - when we weren't collecting particularly large amounts of food - and the people who started it were green types who wanted to do it by bicycle.'

The pair collect from places such as McCarthys, Morrisons, One Stop, Marks and Spencer and Norwich market.

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And by 4pm, all the food is taken to the Quaker House, in Upper Goat Lane, where an expert team of creative cooks take over.

Cooking leader Lucy Asker will then draw up a menu from whatever is available that night, with last week's offering including a Moroccan vegetable tagine, and an apple and plum crumble.

Volunteers in the kitchen at Norwich Foodcycle.. Photo: Geraldine Scott

Volunteers in the kitchen at Norwich Foodcycle.. Photo: Geraldine Scott - Credit: Geraldine Scott

UEA student Chris Harris was a new volunteer, and got stuck straight in with the washing up. The 21-year-old said: 'I study international development so it's the kind of thing you look at and feel you should be doing. I knew a friend who came all the time, he brought me along to eat and it seemed like a really cool thing to do.'

Hub leader, Wendi Asker, said a lot of volunteers got involved that way.

'It might be that they came along to have a meal and then got involved, we have students too, all sorts of people come both to help and to eat,' she said.

After three hours of hectic handiwork the cookery team hand over to the evening's hosts - another set of volunteers who make sure everything at meal time runs smoothly. And before the clock struck 7pm - opening time - diners were already queuing outside the door.

Donated items at Norwich Foodcycle. Photo: Geraldine Scott

Donated items at Norwich Foodcycle. Photo: Geraldine Scott - Credit: Geraldine Scott

'We usually have between 60 and 80 people,' Mrs Asker said. 'But we did once have around 100.'

Tilly Fitzmaurice, 25, and 26-year-old Emma Elliott were two of the leaders keeping things ticking over for the second part of the evening, where diners filed in to be greeted with tea or coffee.

Before they moved on to be served, though, there was a chance to fill a bag with extra food which had not been used.

'I think the marginalised community can be quite invisible in Norwich,' Miss Fitzmaurice said.

Foodcycle Norwich. Joey Kuna and Taylor Shaw (on bikes), who collect the food, with stallholders fro

Foodcycle Norwich. Joey Kuna and Taylor Shaw (on bikes), who collect the food, with stallholders from Norwich market who donate. Photo: Geraldine Scott - Credit: Geraldine Scott

'So it might not seem like it's such a place for food poverty but there's an underside which suffers quite badly.'

Miss Elliott agreed. She said: 'People also like to come here to be social, it feels like a family and it feels more like going out to dinner than say to a soup kitchen.

'Some people will volunteer one week, and come the next,' she added.

One diner, 46-year-old Judy Chui, had been going to the Foodcycle for two years ever since she found herself at Bishopbridge House, a hostel run by St Martin's Housing Trust for single homeless people.

Ms Chui said: 'St Martins supported me and it was through them I came along here. It was appealing to me because it's probably the most healthy meal I will eat all week.'

She said she also enjoyed meeting other people at the group.

'I know quite a few people here, but people do move on, the students who come move on. But the students are also inspirational, I started an Open University course after chatting with a few of them.'

She added: 'I think Foodcycle is a success because it's about the community, it's not religious, it's not political, it's just about people.'

Once everyone left with full stomachs, the night was still young for the volunteers who would then need to stay and wash up, returning the Quaker House to the state they found it in.

'But lots of people stay and help,' Mrs Asker added. 'Everyone plays their part.'

Not just landfill

According to sustainability specialists Wrap, 60pc of the 10m tonnes of food wasted in the UK every year could be avoided.

And food and drink in landfills accounts for around 20pc of the country's CO2 emissions.

But not all food waste ends up in a landfill, as they found 47,000 tonnes was redistributed through commercial or charitable routes - such as Foodcycle.

And 660,000 tonnes was used to produce animal feed.

One company which donates to Foodcycle Norwich said they would do just that.

McCarthys director Martin McCarthy said: 'Our business does generate a lot of waste but it's not that the produce is not fit to eat, it's just not fit to sell.

'So it's great that we can offer it to Foodcycle, they can turn it into good, interesting meals.

'Otherwise, it would be recycled other ways, by going into feed for animals - but we'd rather feed people than cows.'

Eco awards

Norwich Foodcycle was recognised for the work they do at Norwich and Norfolk's Eco Awards, put on by Norwich City Council and Norfolk County Council, on March 16.

For the first time in the history of the awards they became the same group to the eco community group title twice in a row. Praising the winners, this year's host, Richard Powell, OBE, of Wild Anglia said: 'People from all over the county, from all walks of life, have demonstrated a real dedication to making our county a more environmentally friendly, healthier place to live.'

Councillor Martin Wilby, Chairman of the Norfolk County Council Environment, Development and Transport Committee, added: 'It is always such a pleasure to hear about the variety of organisations, businesses and communities who are working so hard to encourage others to think about the environment and how we can reduce our impact on it.'

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