FoodCycle Hackney volunteer Mark lives in London and has been volunteering with FoodCycle ever since he retired. Having been a passionate cook for many years and hosting large parties on a regular basis (once for 200 people!), he wanted to use his skills to help alleviate food poverty within his community.
I have always loved cooking, I used to work in a very stressful job, so much so that I would often come home and feel so stressed that I didn’t even want to talk to my family. I would get back from work, head to the kitchen, put some music on and get cooking and it would make me feel so much better, I’ve always found it such a huge de-stresser. I’m not good at many things but I know I am a pretty good cook!
How did you discover FoodCycle?
After retiring, I was really keen to get involved with some more volunteering. Being incredibly passionate about food poverty I wanted to do something that was tackling this issue. I did a quick Google search of ‘charity cooking’ and there was FoodCycle. Within a week I was volunteering at my first session at the FoodCycle Project in East Ham.
Tell us about your first session at FoodCycle?
Oh it was a wonderful experience. I turned up and we went and collected the food from the supermarket over the road, there really wasn’t a great deal of food that week – a lot of potatoes.
We took it back to the kitchen and I decided to just get stuck in and put myself forward to cook a vegetarian cottage pie. It was quite a challenge with such a small oven and having to cook for so many people! But I did it and everyone was just so lovely, the volunteers, the guests, just so welcoming and friendly.
It really hit home the importance of what I was doing and was obvious how much of a difference these meals make to people. That was it, I was hooked and before long I signed up to be a Project Leader at FoodCycle in Hackney.
Tell us about your favourite FoodCycle meals?
The best thing I have cooked at a meal is sweetcorn fritters. It was at FoodCycle Hackney and again it was a week that we just didn’t have a huge amount of food donated, just lots of sweetcorn.
So I decided to make my late mother-in-law’s famous sweetcorn fritters. It’s a dish that has so many fond memories for me and it was just so special to be able to share it with the guests at FoodCycle. They loved it and my wife and her family were all really touched when I shared the pictures of them at the meal.
What is your favourite thing about volunteering at FoodCycle?
The people, it really is such a wonderful atmosphere, you get to meet all types of people, both the guests and volunteers. I’ve become really good friends with some of my fellow volunteers.
I like the fun and the challenge of coming up with a meal and cooking for 30-40 guests. I love the creativity that happens when different people come together, for example one week we cooked a simple tomato pasta for the main course (due to what we had in our delivery) but we called it Spaghetti Pomodoro just to makes sure that it still felt like a special and exciting meal. Needless to say they absolutely loved it!
Tell us any ways that working with FoodCycle has changed you?
When I first volunteered I really thought that it was just going to be like a food bank but it is so much more than that. FoodCycle has really highlighted the importance of social connection to me. I just really hadn’t grasped the community side of things before, it just hasn’t registered with me until I came to FoodCycle.
It’s also made me so much more aware of the issues that people are struggling with.
What would you say to anyone thinking of volunteering with FoodCycle?
It’s incredibly good fun, we always have a laugh in the kitchen. I’ve volunteered with other charities but FoodCycle just has something about it. If you love food and people, you’ll love this!
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