What is Food Poverty?
Food poverty, according to the Department of Health, is defined as ‘the inability to afford, or have access to, food to make up a healthy diet’. It is estimated that in 2020, 8% of the UK population were living in food poverty and this number is rising every year due to a multitude of reasons, including insecure incomes and increasing living costs. In order to achieve the UN’s 2nd sustainable development goal – the goal to achieve zero hunger – food poverty in the modern-day must be addressed.
The UK produces an astonishing 9.5 million tonnes of food waste each year; 70% of which is perfectly edible. If, in an ideal world, we reused these edible food scraps we could feed the entire UK population 3 meals a day for 11 weeks. Considering the huge amount of edible food that is wasted, it is hard to justify the continuing prevalence of food poverty in many high-income countries. This is where FoodCycle hopes to step in and make a difference.
What is FoodCycle doing to help?
FoodCycle is a charity organisation that began in 2008 in response to the issues of food waste, loneliness and food poverty in the UK. They aim to provide communities with nourishing meals made from surplus food whilst also tackling loneliness by giving people a safe space to chat to other locals. Thousands of volunteers across the country transform food that would have gone to waste into hot 3-course meals to serve to anyone that comes through their doors, no questions asked.
FoodCycle currently operates in over 40 locations across the UK where they give out free meals every week. They work in the most deprived communities to support vulnerable groups including the elderly, homeless, refugees and asylum seekers. The surplus food used to make these meals comes from supermarkets, small independent grocery shops and markets, and extra ingredients are bought to make the meals more nutritionally balanced. This is key to achieving sustainable development as malnutrition is still very much alive even in the UK with healthy food options often costing up to 50% more than their nutritionally poor alternatives.
The weekly meal service also serves to connect individuals within a community so they feel less isolated. FoodCycle’s volunteers are committed to making sure that every visitor feels welcome and listened to. People feeling isolated in the community can also sign up to the Check-in and Chat service which puts you in touch with a FoodCycle volunteer once a week to have a friendly phone conversation.
FoodCycle in numbers (2020)
- 359 tonnes of food saved from going to waste
- 74,073 meals handed out
- 161,400 people helped
- 62% of guests said they relied on FoodCycle as they could not afford to buy food
What does FoodCycle hope to see in the future?
FoodCycle hopes that their community dining model and education surrounding food waste will help to promote sustainability in local communities. By changing attitudes to food and society’s impact on the environment by cooking with surplus ingredients as well as sharing the voices of the guests, they hope to expand their reach even further to help more communities.
Why It Matters?
Not only does this issue help move us toward the 2030 Global Goals for Sustainable Development (SDGs) by helping to tackle SDG 2, zero hunger, but this issue helps to build and improve communities. It is impossible for anyone to develop and move toward their goals in life if the most fundamental human needs are not met. Solving issues like food poverty is one of the most fundamental ways we will achieve the sustainable development goals.
If you’d like to read more about FoodCycle and their projects, visit their website.