Feed a Family: Foodcycle charity feeding more Black Country children

More children are calling in at an expanding free meals project which is seeing a steady increase rise in the number of residents.

Dudley Food Cycle team Jody Beswick with Sasha Mehta, Sue Nagra, Pam Holloway and Yolande Glen
Dudley Food Cycle team Jody Beswick with Sasha Mehta, Sue Nagra, Pam Holloway and Yolande Glen

Independent charity Foodcycle has teams operating at Dudley's St Francis Church, in Laurel Road, Wren’s Nest; at Walsall's Green Lane Baptist Church, in Burrowes Street, Birchills; while a new venture is due to to start at Wolverhampton's Wesylan Holiness Church, in Merridale Lane, Merridale.

The Wolverhampton Foodcycle kitchen will open on November 5.

Latest figures from the service, which serves three-course meals, show that volunteers have been serving 2,000 guests a week in the past three months at its seven venues currently running in the West Midlands.

Feed a Family:

Versatile volunteer chefs prepare hot dishes from surplus stocks supplied by supermarkets including Aldi. The project combines surplus food, spare kitchen spaces and volunteers to help those at risk of food poverty and social isolation

However, the project said moves by several supermarkets to remove best before dates on fresh products in an effort to reduce the volume of food waste is expected to have a knock-on effect on supplies to food charities in the future.

Foodcycle's regional manager, Jody Beswick, said: "We have seen an increase in guests coming to our Black Country projects. We are seeing more children in family groups. This means we've had to make sure we're serving simpler dishes, for example pasta meals, to cater for them.

The Foodcycle team at Green Lane Baptist Church in Walsall mark their first anniversary

"Food surplus remains a challenge as supermarkets are moving to abolish best before dates, but we will be rising to that challenge. All our food comes from surplus stocks. In Walsall we are heavily supported by Aldi which has opened a new branch nearby.

"We have got plans to continue to expand.We have got multiple sites due to open in Walsall due to the high level of deprivation, which we can see from the great response at Green Lane Foodcycle.

"We have plans to target a slightly different people demographic at a different time of day, which we're confident will assist residents."

Walsall Foodcycle is open on Wednesdays at 7pm and in Dudley on Tuesdays at 1pm.

A recent national survey of 500 Foodcycle guests found that 63 per cent were unable afford to buy the amount of food they needed, up from 22 per cent in November last year, while 75 per cent often skipped meals, up from 23 per cent.

FoodCycle's chief executive Mary McGrath said: "Unfortunately, we are feeling the effects of the price hikes on food, which is partly due to less surplus food supply from supermarkets because people are buying up all the 'reduced to clear' items. While this is fantastic news for the issue of food waste, it means we need to purchase more ingredients than usual to continue to serve our weekly free meals to communities across the country.

"This is a new challenge for Foodcycle as we historically have had an amazing supply of donated surplus food from our local supermarket partners. As we are seeing more people than ever joining us for a hot meal and the chance to connect, we'll continue to be creative and make sure we're reaching those that are hungry and lonely this winter."

The charity also needs more volunteers to sign up to cook and greet guests. See foodcycle.org.uk/volun teer-roles/ or phone 07593 256805.

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