Since University, I’ve worked in a variety of marketing roles within the corporate world. Meetings, objectives, targets, deadlines. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Over the past few years, I’ve struggled more and more with the fact that what I do as my 9-5 lacks a sense of “social” purpose – a healthy balance sheet and a virtual “high-five” across the pond just doesn’t cut it for me. Last summer, I left a pretty amazing job that involved a lot of travelling around the world, for the opportunity to regain a sense of routine, a stab at a work-life balance and thus the time to do more of the things I feel strongly about in my free time - namely getting involved in a sustainable food initiative.
Through my passion for all things food-waste related, I’ve been following FoodCycle for the past few years. FoodCycle is a national charity that combines volunteers, surplus food and spare kitchen spaces to create tasty, nutritious meals for people at risk of food poverty and social isolation. They run over 29 projects across the UK, united by the simple idea that food waste and food poverty should not co-exist. They share a common belief that a meal prepared with love and shared with friends is a meal that feeds not only the stomach, but the mind and soul as well. Since they started cooking in May 2009, FoodCycle have served over 125,000 meals made using over 146,000kg of surplus food – the equivalent saving of 657,000kg CO2 emissions.
When the opportunity to join a team of volunteers in the launch of a new FoodCycle Hub came about, I couldn’t have been more interested. Now, along with a group of fabulous people all united by their passion to make something amazing happen in our community, we form the Hub Leader Team for FoodCycle Lewisham.
In just 12 weeks, we have salvaged over 286kg of food that would have otherwise gone to waste to make 358 nutritious 3-course meals. That’s the equivalent weight of over 2400 bananas!
When I was looking for a volunteering opportunity I was eager to find a role that suited my strengths and would provide me with consistently valuable, relevant experience. As a Hub Leader, I help run the weekly sessions with groups of between 8-10 volunteers. Sourcing surplus food from a pre-agreed handful of supermarkets and market stalls, we swiftly conjure up a 3-course meal plan which is cooked by our fabulous team of volunteers, then served up to our guests in our warm and welcoming environment, the Calabash Day Centre on George Lane.
Aside from running the volunteering sessions, I am also involved in managing all aspects of the project, with a focus on where my skills and passion lie – marketing, communications and PR. I look after the Hub’s social media channels, manage all email communications, generate digital and print communications to both current and prospective volunteers and coordinate marketing/PR for any fundraising activities we’ve got going on.
Having the opportunity to be responsible for the Lewisham Hub’s marketing has provided me the freedom to unleash some of my pent up (corporate) creativity whilst giving something back. FoodCycle is somewhat unique (as far as I’m aware) in their liberal approach to giving Hubs sole responsibility to be the external voice of the charity. Detailed brand guidelines are provided to guide us and the team at FoodCycle HQ is always there in a flash if any questions do arise. I’m always looking to generate engaging, fun content for our channels and have dabbled in a variety of video-related content generators such as time-lapse and slow-motion videos of our team cooking and slideshows using Flipagram. Capturing content throughout the sessions is a great way of engaging not only with our volunteers but with our trustees and guests as well, everyone is looking for their 2-seconds of fame after all – aren’t they?
I’ve always been a pretty outgoing person, but volunteering has enhanced my people skills no end, with people from all walks of life that I may have not encountered through my job. I have no doubt that volunteering enhances you as a person. I think everyone should do it, even if it’s just an hour a week. And if you can combine it with what you’re passionate about – it’ll be a match made in heaven.
FoodCycle prides itself on its volunteer-powered community of which I am incredibly honoured to be a part of. Over the past 8 years, I’ve moved home 5 times and never truly felt like I formed part of a community – FoodCycle gives me that warm fuzzy feeling and it’s great to feel part of a community again, and give something back.
If you’d like to find out more about FoodCycle, check out the great video below. For information on FoodCycle Hubs across the country and to get involved, visit www.foodcycle.org.uk.
Wonky Parsnips is an awareness-raising blog that aims to change the way we engage with food.
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