Interview with our charity partner Food Cycle
For every Yorkshire Handmade Pie order, we donate 30p to the valuable work of Foodcycle who support the lonely, the isolated and the hungry members of communities.
Their vision of a society which works together to combat loneliness, hunger and isolation is one which we are proud to support through this partnership.
We spoke to Victoria Meier from Foodcycle to get a little more insight into the impact of their work, and to talk pie (of course!)
YHP. Your work makes positive use of food which might otherwise be thrown away, and you partner with various retailers and supermarkets to make this happen. Do you find yourselves cooking up various spontaneous dishes from what is available, and have you served up any unusual or creative dishes from the available ingredients?
VM. Absolutely! Each cooking session is a bit of a Ready, Steady, Cook experience as we never know what ingredients will turn up that day. Our volunteers are wonderfully resourceful and come up with inventive dishes to serve our guests, week in, week out. Recent offerings include roasted butternut squash, balsamic sprouts and a tomato and quinoa sauce; vegetable frittata with a side of samphire and broccoli; sweet potato, chickpea and kale curry with roast beetroot or celeriac chips.
YHP. Your work supports communities and helps to offer good food and company to those most in need – what do you think helps towards a positive community environment and how can people be involved in supporting this in their locality?
VM. I think it’s important to create a really warm, welcoming environment where people can feel relaxed. Our hosting volunteers go out of their way to make guests feel welcome, especially if they’re attending for the first time, as we recognise it can be a daunting step to take. We find that lots of people are keen to get involved in supporting their local community and that volunteers gain a lot from the experience as well.
YHP. Do you find the work you do encourages mealtime conversations/natterings, and helps mealtimes to become the hub of the day in a society when they are often rushed, lonely or even on the go?
VM. Very much so, yes. Sitting with others over a shared meal naturally engenders conversation. We know that the majority (58%) of our guests come on their own and many look forward to their weekly meal as a chance to leave the house and have a chat. Our community meals, which have sadly been on pause throughout the pandemic, are three courses and volunteers serve guests, as they would at a restaurant. This ensures the meals are not rushed, allowing for plenty of conversation.
YHP. Out of the dishes you cook, which ones do you think would be best served as an accompaniment to our pies?
VM. I’d say a ratatouille might go well with a hearty pie or perhaps a salsa as a lighter accompaniment.
YHP. How does our donation help?
VM. At the moment, the donations we receive from Yorkshire Handmade Pies ensure we can provide healthy, hot meals for as many as need them from our projects around the country. We use funds to buy store cupboard ingredients to spice up our meals, kitchen equipment for our volunteers to use and – right now – lots of takeaway containers, amongst other things!
YHP. If someone is interested in being involved or volunteering, how might they do this?
VM. We’re always looking for volunteers. Anyone interested can take a look on our website, find out what is involved, see if we run a project in their local community and sign up online at https://www.foodcycle.org.uk/get-involved/volunteer/. We also offer virtual volunteering through our new Check-in and Chat service, which we introduced during the pandemic to continue to support those feeling isolated. We provide online training and volunteers then get allocated four calls a week.
YHP. What do you think makes a good pie? Have you made pies as part of your meals before?
VM. Crispy pastry and plenty of filling! We don’t tend to make a lot of pies because we’re always up against the clock to get meals out before service. We do serve mince pies at Christmas if that counts though.
YHP. The impact of the pandemic has been huge for the work you do, bearing in mind much of it pre-Covid involved organising community meal times which people could attend to get good food and meet other people. Your response to the pandemic has been strong and undeterred, maintaining that determination to support the isolated and lonely (possibly more so now). What has helped you to adapt so effectively and quickly, and how have guests coped and managed?
VM. Our team’s determination not to let down the people who rely on us spurred them on to go the extra mile. We’re a small and committed team which enabled us to be agile, and adapt our approach swiftly. We initially pivoted to a food delivery service. We couldn’t have done it without the support of our dedicated volunteers who gave their time to bag up and deliver parcels up and down the country.
Covid-19 has hit our community particularly hard. Some of those we supported during lockdown have only basic cooking facilities or worry about the cost of turning on the hob. Our referrals included people suffering with severe illness or disabilities who couldn’t get out to the shops, those who had lost their job and had bills mounting up and self-isolating elderly without family to shop for them.
More recently we’ve been providing takeaway meals for guests to collect, ensuring they and their household can have a hot, well-balanced meal. We’re starting to make tentative plans to finally return to our community meals this summer and we’re looking forward to welcoming our guests back through the doors for good food and conversation.
If you would like to learn more about the work of Foodcycle, you can visit www.foodcycle.org.uk. Throughout April they are running a fitness fundraising challenge (Foodcycle 50) whereby you set yourself a 30 day fitness target around the number 50 – this could be anything from 50 star jumps a day to a 50 minute walk/run a day with the aim of raising a minimum of £100.
For a bit of fun, you can even dress up for your challenge – if you choose a pie, do send us your photos.
They will offer full support and guidance along the way, and if you fancy giving it a go you can find the full details and how to register on their website.