How Sheffield food charity carried on its work for community and environment during Covid

Food waste is a massive problem in the western world – and is the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Monday, 6th December 2021, 3:33 pm

The UK alone throws away nearly 10 million tonnes of food a year creating 25 million tonnes of CO2 emissions every year – more than Kenya’s total annual CO2 emissions.

Enough food is produced across the world to wipe out global hunger – but one third of it goes to waste with 1.3 billion tonnes of food thrown away.

The UK has cut down on its food waste in recent years – but we still throw away an astounding amount of edible food.

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Food Works new home in Handsworth. Pictured are Jo Hercberg and Ash Cooke. Picture: Chris Etchells

Food Works is working hard to buck this trend and has continued the task despite 18 months of Covid and its related lockdowns.

The charity has been based in Sheffield since 2015, working with 200 to 300 volunteers.

It works with retailers, manufactures, and suppliers, collecting around eight tonnes of surplus food a week, which otherwise would go into landfill creating tonnes of greenhouse gasses, as it decomposes in the ground.

The food is collected, sorted then sent to the kitchens where it is cooked providing meals for anyone who would like one.

Food Works new home in Handsworth. Pictured is Jo Hercberg. Picture: Chris Etchells

At the beginning of the pandemic, Food Works encountered lots of problems.

Its cafe, catering side and events all had to close.

Staff had to come up with a plan to carry on their work, supporting the community.

They sent out a request on social media, asking other businesses and organisations if they could use any spare kitchen space to cook the food.

Food Works new home in Handsworth. Pictured is Ash Cooke. Picture: Chris Etchells

Endeavour, another Sheffield-based charity, which works with young people who have dropped out of mainstream education, came forward offering its facilities and producing a partnership which meant they both could contribute to supporting the local community.

Its in-house kitchen facilities are used to train pupils cooking crafts and skills to make healthy nutritious meals, but due to the pandemic the kitchens were unused as there were no pupils coming into classes.

This worked perfectly for Food Works’ chefs and volunteers, as they could use the purpose built facilities, which had socially-distanced workstations.

In addition to this they were given the use of the charity’s van to collect food and ingredients from the warehouse, then deliver meals to recipients.

Also as a result of furlough, Food Works also gained several furloughed chefs and volunteers.

Volunteer chef Kevin was working in a pub before the pandemic hit.

The pub’s kitchen closed down, and the staff were told “that’s it, don’t come into work”.

Kevin said: “I saw about Food Works and got in touch. I’ve been here since the second week of the pandemic.

“We're doing about 150 and 200 meals a week.

“It makes me feel happy, because I’m doing what I do, making sure surplus food is making nutritious meals for vulnerable people in Sheffield.”

Food Works is keen to emphasise that anyone needing to access meals can really get them.

The organisation says there are numerous reasons why people need support from Food Works. This could be NHS workers unable to get to the supermarket, someone suffering financially after losing their job or someone isolating and not able to get to the shop.

There are numerous Food Works sites in the city, where people can access food and support.

The main three are situated in Sharrow, Handsworth and Upperthorpe, with other satellite hubs in various locations.

These can be located by going onto the website at thefoodworks.org.