By Peter Makossah
An innovative project saving surplus food from being wasted which has delivered around 1,000 meals a week to local charities has been shortlisted for a national award.
The City Council’s meal production project in partnership with FareShare Midlands, FareShare UK and Sainsbury’s has been going from strength to strength since its launch in July 2022.
In recognition of the council’s work with FareShare, the project has been nominated for a prestigious Public Sector Catering Award for Sustainability.
The awards celebrate the work of individuals, teams and organisations in the catering industry that work to make a difference whether in schools, universities, NHS or local government.
Nottingham City Councillor Cheryl Barnard, Portfolio Holder for Children and Young People and Schools, said:
“We are delighted to have been shortlisted for a Public Sector Catering Award for sustainability for our meal production project with FareShare. This important project is reducing the environmental impact of food waste while bringing healthy food to community groups.
“The project is giving volunteers valuable opportunities to develop their skills, take part in training, improve their employability and improve mental wellbeing.
“The meals created have been of an excellent standard and it is evident that the meals are making a difference to people who receive them.”
The FareShare team has been creating delicious meals that make a difference to local people in need and saving food from going to waste.
FareShare Midlands are using the commercial kitchen at Loxley House, Nottingham City Council’s HQ, to make meals from surplus food from the food industry that would otherwise be thrown away. The meals are delivered to local charities dealing with poverty, isolation and the cost of living crisis.
By the end of December 2022, the kitchen had: saved eight tonnes of surplus food going to waste, equivalent to 20 tonnes CO2, distributed 6.8 tonnes of food, equivalent to 19,428 meals, cooked, frozen and delivered around 1,000 meals per week and registered 19 Nottingham charitable groups to receive meals.
Surplus food is sourced by FareShare from local suppliers around the East Midlands. The fresh produce FareShare receive is always seasonal. It’s sourced from growers when they are harvesting quantities of fruits or vegetable surplus to requirements.
Currently the project has a glut of celeriac they are putting into meals.
Fareshare has also began accessing and unlocking new surplus food from manufacturing. This food, sometimes termed ‘work in progress’, lends itself to cooking activities as the food is already part-prepared and part-cooked.
By accessing this surplus food, they can cook more community meals quickly and save more food from going to waste.
Volunteers are vital to running the project and the FareShare team at Loxley House includes two chefs and a team of over 20 volunteers.
Through their experience in the kitchen, volunteers are able to develop their confidence, social connections as well as improve their employability skills.
FareShare Midlands also work in partnership with local organisation Pulp Friction, to provide adults with a learning disability and/or autism the chance to further develop their skills in the Loxley House kitchen.
Volunteers are assessed for their individual needs and go on to a ten-week work experience placement at Nottingham Catering’s kitchen.
Volunteers are assigned a supervisor and mentor and have weekly themes to their training, covering: Health and Safety in the kitchen, Food safety and Hygiene, Food preparation skills, knife skills, Soup preparation for 300 portions.
At the end of ten weeks, volunteers can take Level 2 Food Safety and then they can volunteer at the Police and Fire Station HQ canteen which serves 1,000 staff meals daily and some will go on to have work experience in a school kitchen environment with a view to employment.
Since September 2022 the kitchen has been shared between FareShare and Nottingham Catering as we needed freshly prepared hot meals to be transport into a local school.
Pierce O’Connor, FareShare Projects and Programmes Manager, said: “All the staff are respectful of the space and get on with each other very well. They are always looking out for each other.”
The project aims to increase its services to cook and distribute 2,000 meals a week to up to 40 local charities within the next six months.