NORWICH FOODHUB: SAVING FOOD — FIGHTING HUNGER.

by Rowan Van Tromp

Since my original article, Norwich’s War On Food Waste, was published a lot has changed, so I thought it was time high time for an update.

First, to recap, when the original article was published in November 2015 the seeds had been sown for the formation of an organisation with three main aims:

  • To collect food that would otherwise be wasted by retailers due to it having passed it’s sell-by or best-before date, or as a result of over purchasing.
  • To bring this food to an accessible centrally located unit to be weighed, sorted and recorded.
  • To coordinate the redistribution of such food to organisations helping to tackle food poverty in the city.

Seizing upon the momentum generated at our initial meeting, I hastened to organise a series of follow-up meetings to turn the ideas and enthusiasm into action.

The first point on the agenda was to secure a unit from which we could operate, something of a stumbling hurdle given the cost implications — but we had support where we needed it. Then Green City Councillor Lucy Howard, an attendee of the initial meeting, proposed a motion, backed by over 300 people, calling upon Norwich City Council to support us in our aims to help people in food poverty through the redistribution of food that would otherwise be wasted.

(Image courtesy of Rowan Van Tromp)

(Henri, Greggs collection. Image courtesy of Rowan Van Tromp)

Once the motion had passed we were quick to follow it up to see if they would make good on their promise, something which does not seem to happen all too often in politics. Thankfully on this occasion the Council were very supportive, offering us two centrally located units for a period of two years.

Meanwhile, our group dynamic was evolving. It was undoubtedly the element most crucial for the longevity of the project to have a balanced team of people, all dedicated to turning the aims of the project into a reality. Nothing could be achieved without such a team, but that we had.

Nothing could be achieved without such a team

In March 2016 that team became the first Directors of Norwich FoodHub C.I.C (Community Interest Company), thereby providing the legal basis from which we were able to set up redistribution agreements with national food retail giants, keen to be seen to be changing in the face of public outcry over the scale of waste generated by our consumption based, fast paced, economic system.

But there were a few other creases to iron out before we could get started with collections:

Firstly, we needed to bring our unit up to a standard capable of storing food safely — ensuring food was traceable (i.e. recorded). This was something that required both brains and brute, but after many hours of scrubbing, fixing, sticking and thinking we had ourselves a 5 star rated food safety certificate and a workable recording system in place.

Secondly, we had to establish a partnership with an existing organisation helping people in food poverty. As a result of the outreach we had conducted there were a number of organisations interested in receiving food, but we chose Leeway Domestic Violence & Abuse Services, who run a number of refuges in Norfolk for women and children affected by domestic violence, to be our first beneficiaries.

(Norwich FoodHub. Image courtesy of Rowan Van Tromp)

(Norwich FoodHub. Image courtesy of Rowan Van Tromp)

The next landmark day was the 31st of May when we made our first collection from Greggs’ Colman Road store, consisting of 18kg of bread and cakes that would have otherwise been destined for the dump at closing time. We continued with this weekly collection for the entirety of June, identifying problems and resolving them whilst recruiting friends and supporters to help us save a further 50kg of food.

By July we were ready to expand, first to include Greggs’ St Stephens Street store, then to offer daily collections to our small, but growing, base of volunteers, managed through our profile on Neighbourly.com. This allowed us to double our collections, increasing our haul of salvaged food to 75kg for the month.

so far redistributed over 500kg of food from being unnecessarily thrown out

Our expansion continued into August, as we teamed up with Tesco’s Blue Boar Lane store for collections on Mondays and Fridays as part of their new national redistribution programme. This new partnership was important as it meant we gained access to fruit and vegetables, so we were able to offer a more balanced variety of food to Leeway.

Combined with further exemplary efforts from our volunteers, August saw us more than double the number of collections again, meaning we have so far redistributed over 500kg of food from being unnecessarily thrown out. But we want to do more. Having just expanded our partner retailers to include M&S, we are looking for more volunteers to help us save and redistribute more food to people who are suffering from the consequences of the inequitable society we live in.

(Rowan. Greggs collection. Image courtesy of Rowan Van Tromp)

(Rowan, Greggs collection. Image courtesy of Rowan Van Tromp)

To get involved go to Neighbourly.com, create a profile and search for Norwich FoodHub. Here you will be able to sign up to collections at any time you can spare, with no regular commitment. Collections can be made either using your own vehicle, or our own bikes and trailers, with training provided on how to use them safely.

Once you’re all signed up we will message you to arrange a training session. We’re also recruiting for leadership roles. If you share our values and want to get some practical leadership experience, get in touch at NorwichFoodHub@gmail.com, or message us on Facebook.

Featured image © Nora Tam

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