Feeding Peckham: Everybody welcome

We chatted to Jacqui Hobson, a volunteer Co-ordinator Peckham Foodcycle -a charity on a mission to feed communities using surplus food. Jacqui, alongside two project leaders manages and supports the volunteers, ensuring they have a great time, by providing a safe, sociable and welcoming environment for both guests and volunteers alike.  

So what does FoodCycle actually do?

Foodcycle is a large charity that combines volunteers and surplus food to create delicious, nutritious meals for people at risk of food poverty and social isolation.  There are  42 Foodcycle projects across the country, including 13 in London.

Image cred: @peckham_foodcycle

Image cred: @peckham_foodcycle

Ours [Peckham FC] takes place at a fantastic community kitchen at All Saint's Church, Peckham. We serve our guests at the table and eat with them as the sociable aspect is very important. We have volunteer cooks and volunteer hosts but, at the end of the day, we are one big happy team.

How long has it been operating in Peckham? 

Peckham Foodcycle has been operating on Saturdays [5-7pm] since Jan, 2015 and on Wednesdays [4.15-6pm] since Sept 2017.

How did you get involved with FoodCycle? 

I was very aware of issues around food waste whilst at the same time there are so many people who can't afford to eat.  To think that there is so much food waste in this country and yet people are hungry just makes me want to weep.  

Thinking I'd like to do something, I typed "volunteer bring food to those without, Peckham" and Foodcycle popped up! So I registered with Foodcycle through the website, took a short Health and Safety online course and voila! I booked a space at a session and turned up! The Foodcycle website provides a ton of interesting information and guidance as to how to become a volunteer and what Foodcycle is all about.  

Image cred: @peckham_foodcycle

Image cred: @peckham_foodcycle

Can anyone come down for a meal? 

Yes!  We are very inclusive and welcome everyone.

What kind of meals are served?

We serve a vegetarian three-course meal.  One of the enjoyable aspects of using surplus food is that we never know what donations we are going to get until we arrive at each session. It is often a mixture of fruit, vegetables, bread and occasionally dairy.  Our volunteer cooks love the creative side of deciding what to make from a random selection of ingredients, it's a bit like Ready Steady Cook!  If you check out our Instagram page you will be amazed at the standard of cooking and the creativity involved. 

Where does the food come from? 

We receive regular surplus food donations from East Dulwich Sainsbury's and M&S, plus a generous amount of bread from Rana's Bakery. Also, some local shops donate to the Saturday session. It is all surplus food that would be disposed of.

What would you say is the most important thing about Foodcycle?

Apart from addressing some very important issues around food waste, it is that we provide a welcoming, safe space, a nutritious and beautifully presented meal, a great welcome in a social setting and commitment from our volunteers that we will be respectful, supportive and  do the best we can.   

It also matters that this is a two-way thing.  The volunteers are as important as the guests and it can be a very interesting experience for them, learning about other people's lives and cultures in a way they may not have had the chance to do so before, working in a team, bringing their skills or learning new ones. Meeting new people, having a purpose and seeing firsthand how much they and their hard work is appreciated.  We have good relationships with many of our regular guests and it is important that the session is a happy and sociable one for us all.

Image cred: @peckham_foodcycle

Image cred: @peckham_foodcycle

What is the best thing about volunteering at Foodcycle? 

Too many to list, but there is a very good feeling when you stand back for a moment, take a look at 40-50 people enjoying a delicious meal, chatting and generally feeling that they matter, and recognise that a group of individuals have given of their time and are enjoying themselves, too.  There is a great sense of support and collaboration amongst the volunteers and it can be a very satisfying way of giving something back.

How can someone in our local community help out?

There are many roles within Foodcycle volunteering...food collection, cooking, hosting, fundraising, etc and  we welcome new volunteers!   

However, on a personal level, I think many of us could do a bit more. We can look around our communities and see where there might be an opportunity to give a little bit back. There are loads of charities and volunteer groups in and around Peckham and Nunhead, addressing some of the many issues people have to face.  You don't have to do a lot. But If we all did a little....

For more information about volunteering with Foodcycle check out their website.