In this guest post, Peckham Hub Leader Sam Oxley reflects on his time as a volunteer. As well as looking at what he has got out of volunteering with FoodCycle, Sam looks at the importance of community and the power food has to bring people together.
When I first volunteered at Peckham’s FoodCycle Hub I had no idea the opportunities it would open up to become part of the local community. I’ve been a Hub Leader for over a year now, and I love FoodCycle for so many reasons it’s actually hard for me to pin down any one reason!
First of all, I really agree with what FoodCycle stands for – reducing food poverty, while also reducing social isolation by providing friendly meals created entirely from surplus food that would have otherwise have gone to waste. Who doesn’t hate throwing away perfectly good food? It’s mad the amount that gets needlessly chucked from supermarkets and stalls, especially when so many people go hungry. This is even more relevant now with the rise in foodbank use, so FoodCycle’s ideology had me hooked from the get-go.
In terms of improving the community, I come from a small village outside Newcastle and everyone knows each other, even if that’s just a nod of the head while your walking the dog or saying hello in the local shop. While I love London, when I moved here I lost the sense of community that I loved because it was just so big – it’s true that London can be one of the most lonely cities in the world. I read that up to a quarter of Londoners say they lonely often if not all of the time.
FoodCycle genuinely really brings the community together. We speak with the local traders every week and have regular guests who come every Saturday. It’s been a huge success. Food is the most natural way for people to bond in my opinion: no matter what your background or culture, everyone can appreciate a good meal!
Our Hub in Peckham has a really friendly and lively crowd. I’ve made real friends and met more interesting characters than you can imagine.
We always pride ourselves on the quality of the food we serve too, all created with surplus food. So many people presume it would be like a ‘soup kitchen’, but our three course meals are so much more! I’ve always been a keen cook, the food I’ve learned how to cook with other volunteers influence has been incredible. Having to decide what to make on the day always pushes everyone involved out their comfort zones and allows for some real creativity. We’ve made mango and pomegranate salads, purple broccoli risotto, chocolate cookies topped with chocolate covered tangerines with raspberry sauce.
Through FoodCycle, I’ve had the opportunity to get more involved with projects in my area. Most recently, we have been receiving high amounts of perishable food like fruit so we started making jam and all the proceeds go to charities in are local area.
It’s great to feel part of a community again, and to give something back.