“Cutting food waste is a delicious way of saving money, helping to feed the world and protect the planet” Tristram Stuart

6 Questions with Community Champions — Diana Korchien and Rosemary Warrington, of Transition Leytonstone

Sadly food poverty here in the UK is now very much a part of our society with 1 in 8 people regularly going hungry. A shocking 1 in 4 low-income families do not have enough food, with many reliant on food banks to ensure that their children have access to a proper meal.

Terrible statistics from a G7 nation where conversely our food and drink sector produces10 million tonnes of food waste per year. Food and drink also accounts for 20% of UK’s CO2 equivalent emissions (source: WRAP). Therefore, not only are we creating landfill, our propensity to throw away food is damaging to the environment in other ways .

In a country that often appears relatively obsessed with sell by dates what can be done to redress the balance?

Transition Leytonstone is a community initiative, reliant on volunteers, which aims to make Leytonstone a more sustainable community. They currently run the Best Before stall outside Matalan and also maintain the amazing oasis of calm that is the Community Garden by the station. Their latest project brings a Community Fridge, full of food that is just before/on or just past best before date, that can be repurposed towards eradicating food poverty and waste.

1) What is a community fridge and whereabouts is the Leytonstone one?Ours is outside Café de Montmartre near the station, it’s a very attractive purpose built wooden cupboard that houses a fridge donated by Bosch and a store cupboard. We also have a second fridge as well as a freezer, currently waiting in our council-donated garage for us to raise sufficient funds for the 4 solar panels we will need to power them. The Community Ward Forum have already given us a sizable sum towards these.

The idea is that surplus food is shared within a local community, ours is part of the HubBub Community Fridge Network www.hubbub.org.uk/Event/community-fridge-network. So far 32 Community Fridges have been set up across the UK, helping thousands connect to their communities, whilst accessing nutritious food and reducing waste. With this initiative we also hope to make people think differently about the way they buy, eat and waste food.

2) What sort of items does it stock? The majority of the food is at the end of its best before range. Items include bread, pastries, dried food, tins, biscuits, crisps, fresh fruit and vegetables — anything that is safe to eat and meets food hygiene standards.

3) Who can have access to the food and how is it priced? The fridge is open to anyone to take whatever they would like. Nothing has a price, people can pay what they want for any item or nothing at all. We’d like to think that those that are living in food poverty will have their items for free and everyone else will pay a reasonable amount within their budget. So far, we’ve had a few people that have kindly, clearly paid more than the value of the produce.

4) Where does the food come from? We (Transition Leytonstone) collect the food from a ‘Felix Project’ hub in Enfield. Felix are a charity run by volunteers who collect unwanted food headed for landfill from producers and major food distributors and deliver it to charities and other organisations that cook for large numbers in their vans. Any bulky, catering-sized items we are given we repurpose and deliver to The Christian Kitchen in Walthamstow.

5) Where did funding for the fridge come from?
The main funding for the project came from Hubbub, which in turn receives funding from North London Waste Authority. This allowed us to pay a joiner and an electrician to build and install the fridge cabinet. The wonderful design for the cabinet was the brainchild of Carlo from local spatial designers made with volume https://www.madewithvolume.com/peoples-fridge/

Fortunately, this was supplied to us gratis. Several other members of the Community Fridge Network are interested in the design, so hopefully made with volume will be able to adapt the design for others or license it for use.

6) How can the local community become involved and support this initiative? In order to make the initiative a success we really need volunteers to man the fridge. Currently we have very few, but it’s been encouraging to see at least two people coming forward every day since we’ve been operating! We’ve chosen the operating hours of 12–3 for two reasons: a) these will be daylight hours in winter as well as summer; b) non-working parents of children at the nearby George Tomlinson Primary School can volunteer on our stall before collecting their kids in the afternoon, while also being able to take food that they themselves might need. In order for this project to be really effective, we need it to be open for as many hours on as many days as possible. Please also spread the word, so it gets used by those that need it most. We also ask that you think about the choices you make when purchasing food and try to make headway in reducing your own food waste.

For more info on Transition Leytonstone or to volunteer:

http://www.transitionleytonstone.org.uk

FB @ TransitionLeytonstone www.facebook.com/groups/149002798466907/

Twitter: @E11info