With millions of people living in food poverty in the UK, and dependence on food banks at an all-time high, our relationship with what we eat is more strained than ever before. But we believe that it’s not just access to food that’s the problem - the whole system needs an overhaul.
In the past, farming and agriculture would have formed the beating heart of communities across the UK. But now, as a nation of supermarkets and processed foods, we have become distanced from this process. And as we have lost our connection to what we put on the table, we have lost some of our sense of belonging as well.
Now, instead of a happy occasion shared with loved ones, meals have become an inconvenience or - even worse - a struggle for many busy families. But we believe that the magic can be put back into mealtimes, and that’s why so many of our projects are focused around food. By providing access to skills, equipment, and ingredients, and championing the social benefits of shared meals, we hope to build stronger, more resilient communities.
One of our latest projects is a weekly Zero Waste Cafe, hosted in conjunction with the Lincolnshire-based social enterprise Slow Circular Earth. Using surplus food and supermarket waste, we create mouthwatering menus from ingredients that would otherwise be thrown away. The event starts at 10.30am on Tuesdays and is open to everybody, with food available for free or on a “Pay As You Feel” basis.
Although some might feel a bit funny about intercepting food that was destined for the bin, it’s a concept that has increased in popularity in recent years. Back in 2013 a trio of Leeds-based entrepreneurs founded the Real Junk Food Project, using food waste from supermarkets and restaurants to produce meals for a “Pay As You Feel” cafe. In the years since, they have fed over 10,000 people using some 20 tonnes of unwanted food, and helped establish over 100 similar projects across the UK.
Meanwhile, the FareShare Project - which supplies some of the produce that we use at Marfleet Community Centre - has been working to fight hunger and tackle food waste since 1994. Today, the group serves a sort of waste food wholesaler, collecting surplus produce and distributing it to charities and community groups across the UK. Since 2022 they have redistributed some 54,000 tonnes of food and worked with 8,500 charities to help feed over a million people.
As well as fuelling the kitchen for our Zero Waste Cafe, produce from FareShare takes a starring role in another of our projects, the batch cooking sessions which take place every Thursday at XPM. Everyone is welcome to come along and get involved with making tasty, affordable meals, with lots left over to take home and fill up your freezer at the end of the day. Or, for those who just want to share food in a warm, friendly environment, our centre hosts a free three course community meal every Thursday from 6pm-8pm run by FoodCycle.
It’s our goal to get as many people as possible cooking together, and our monthly Food Club is a great place to start. During these sessions, aspiring chefs of all abilities can improve their cooking skills and bond while creating delicious concoctions in our professional catering kitchen. And if any of our members fancy taking what they’ve learned out into the wide world, we have a library of equipment available to borrow free of charge, enabling everyone to embrace cooking without having to fork out for expensive kit.
Back in 2015, we also helped launch the Hull Harvest Feastival, celebrating the abundance of food grown in our local area and bringing people together over shared meals. As the project grew in popularity, we partnered with the city’s Freedom Festival to launch Freedom FEASTival, feeding upwards of 1,500 people a three course meal using locally grown and donated produce. From grassroots beginnings this project has grown to encompass a network of growers, chefs, and passionate individuals who work together to change the narrative surrounding food. As the Yorkshire Feast Collective, we provide catering for a wide range of local events, including Hull Seed Swap and Sheffield University field trips. What’s more, any profits are funneled into a fund that invests in local food businesses, helping to transform the system from the bottom up.
“Our TimeBank is all about bringing communities together,” explains Kate Macdonald, our Director. “There is so much food going to waste in the UK, and we partner with organisations such as FareShare and FoodCycle to reduce the amount that gets thrown away. At the same time, we’re able to create opportunities for people to meet and connect over fresh, healthy meals. It’s not just about filling bellies, it’s about fostering a sense of belonging as well.”
Looking to the future, we’ve got even more food-based projects on the horizon, including an initiative to help people build up their store cupboards and make cooking accessible to all. And that's not all. With our friends from Alderman Kneeshaw Park, we'll soon be getting out on the streets with a door-to-door cream tea delivery, enabling us to reach out to people in their own homes and explore ways to connect and share skills. And we’ll be doing more community outreach in the form of our mobile market stall, bringing surplus produce, books, seedlings and more to the streets of Hull.
Watch this space to find out more!