Food, Glorious Food
Food is great – not only does it keep us nourished, but a good meal with friends or even strangers binds you together in a way that nothing else does with quite such ease. On the volunteering side of things, food based projects are brilliant: they draw on skills you already have; most end up being inherently social (as is the way with food!); and most importantly many of these roles can be done on a relatively ad hoc basis or at the weekends, meaning that even people who struggle with volunteering around work hours can get involved.
Food Cycle makes excellent use of food that would otherwise be wasted – in their seventeen hubs spread over the UK which provide food for those individuals at large risk of food poverty. Volunteers can do any number of tasks: from chopping, stirring and serving, to menu planning based on the provided ingredients. Engaging with the diners is also essential – there’s something here for everyone! Currently there are four hubs in London each occurring on a different day of the week, as well as the Pie in the Sky Café, running out of the Bromley-by-Bow Centre on a daily basis.
A different approach to solving issues of food shortage or malnutrition is that undertaken by Casserole Club. An innovative idea, especially for those searching for an opportunity to volunteer as and when you can – as a member, you cook for an isolated individual in your area who would otherwise not cook for themselves. I’m certain we all have experience of the demotivation often involved in cooking anything substantial for one, and this is exactly why Casserole Club exists. It is here solely so that individuals who live alone, and who therefore may be experiencing this lack of motivation daily, can instead have a portion of something delicious and homemade with a little bit of love brought right to their door.
The Upper Room aims to improve the lives of socially vulnerable people and give them the confidence to be economically independent. UR4Meals is one of their mechanisms for doing this – providing an evening meal five days a week. As a volunteer you can get involved in the running of these meals on any day of the week, making that a weekly or even fortnightly commitment. In this role, you can either help the chef with food prep, or assist with serving, cleaning up and sharing some friendly smiles.
Tower Hamlets Foodbank takes food donated by the community and organises and redistributes this food in emergency food packages for individuals who have been referred and are in crisis. Understandably, this is the sort of operation that benefits from the power in numbers – the more collections that can be done, the more food that can be sorted, and the more foodbank attendees that can be catered for and cared for. There are vacancies also for help with admin in the office, so there is plenty to be done – get in touch if it takes your fancy and see how you can get stuck in!
Another wholly worthwhile venture is The Food Chain. Here, nutritional advice, cooking classes, communal eating opportunities, as well as weekly donated grocery supplies, are delivered to people living with HIV in London and their dependants. There are tonnes of different volunteering opportunities at The Food Chain, ranging from the regular to the more ad hoc, and the reports from current volunteers are glowing. This is well worth a look, and the variety of ways you can help mean there is surely something for everyone.
As M.F.K. Fisher wrote, “First, we eat. Then, we do everything else.” Without dedicated volunteers supporting all of these, and the many many more invaluable projects, those individuals who these initiatives support would not have the wherewithal to do what Fisher describes as, quite simply, “everything else”. The variety of food based voluntary roles cover every single option, so if you are someone looking for heartfelt, community based volunteering with an unquantifiable impact … tuck in!