Cost of living crisis: how to get a delicious free meal in Birmingham for all your family
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The cost of living in the UK is said to be the highest in almost 30 years.
Not only are supermarket food prices being driven up by the highest inflation levels for decades, but energy bills have also been increasing at a rapid rate - particularly in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war.
The energy price cap increased on Friday (1 April) and will be reviewed again in six months, with many experts expecting it to increase once more.
Many households in Birmingham have also been hit hard financially by the coronavirus pandemic, with new research also showing that Hodge Hill, Ladywood and Erdington, are in the top five constituencies in the UK set to be hardest hit by the cost of living crisis.
With the increase in energy bills, many families are looking at how to save money and some are worried about being able to provide food for their households. Help is at hand from FoodCycle, a charity providing families in Birmingham with the opportunity to eat ready made 3-course meals completely free of charge.
What kind of meals are available at FoodCycle?
From veggie shepherds pie, to piping hot pasta smothered in tangy tomato sauce with cheese, curries, tagines, roast dinners and more.
There’s always something delicious on the three-course menu at FoodCycle centres.
The food on offer changes weekly as it’s made from quality donations and surplus stock.
But it’s always three courses, always vegetarian - to be more inclusive - and its always hot and nutritious.
For example, one week volunteers might get a crate of tomatoes so it will be a roasted tomato soup with cheese toast, then a glut of bananas, so volunteers would make banana bread for pudding with a veggie shepherd’s pie, or pasta for the main course.
Volunteers can make curries, tagines, roast dinners at Christmas, and even feasts for Diwali and Ramadan.
Where can I get a free FoodCycle meal in Birmingham?
The charity currently provides free community meals at five locations in and around Birmingham.
West Heath: West Heath Community Centre, Hamstead House, Sundays. 1pm
Kingstanding: Kingstanding Road, on Saturdays at 1pm
Falcon Lodge: Churchill Road, Sutton Coldfield, on Mondays at 3.30pm
Aston: Birmingham Settlement, Witton Road, Sundays at 1.30pm
Longbridge: Longbridge Methodist Church, Mondays at 7.30pm
Everyone is welcome, no matter your background or circumstances. No referral is needed, you can just turn up for your three-course meal.
What have people who have used FoodCycle in Birmingham said?
Kirsty Preston found FoodCycle in March 2020, just as the country was going into the first Covid-19 lockdown.
As a dedicated teacher who had worked 7am to 7pm in a local South Birmingham school for 10 years, Kirsty initially saw volunteering as a way to keep her busy when her school closed but quickly realised it gave her so much more.
Kirsty was quickly snapped up as a volunteer for FoodCycle Birmingham Longbridge where the team set up a community food bank to ensure guests living in South Birmingham still had access to food parcels from March 2020 onwards.
She said: “I started at FoodCycle to keep busy but quickly came to realise how important the work we are doing is. It’s simple – if we don’t do our jobs as volunteers, our guests don’t get food.
“Having the chance to support the community and connect with people every day has changed my viewpoint completely. Before the pandemic, people were more likely to turn a blind eye to those suffering but I have seen a shift in how many are willing to help because they have had the chance to stop and think about others.
“From local businesses who have reached out to donate to individuals who have given their time every week, I feel so proud of myself and the Birmingham community.”
Andrew McIntyre has been visiting the FoodCycle Project in Walsall every Wednesday evening since it opened at the end of the summer.
Previously Andrew suffered a breakdown, which lead to the loss of his career and a period of being homeless. He has been in his council flat for the past six years and gets by on benefits, which leave him £14 per week to spend on food.
The team at FoodCycle Walsall have come to rely on his friendly face each week and the fact he always turns up with a freshly ironed shirt and jacket for dinner.
He said: “I came across this service and it is nice that they offer the meal and the service that they do.
“But over and above the food side of it, I like the companionship of meeting people socially and having a chat because most weeks I don’t see anybody. From the social aspect it is very warming. And the bonus of having the food takeaway parcels keeps me going for an extra couple of days.”
How does FoodCycle get food for free meals?
FoodCycle is a national charity aiming to combat food poverty and social isolation in communities.
The charity offers free, vegetarian 3-course meals to all, and currently operates in six different locations in and around Birmingham.
FoodCycle volunteers collect surplus food from supermarkets and cook it into delicious meals which they serve to guests from the local community.
Guests are offered a healthy three-course vegetarian meal, and volunteers and guests sit down to eat the meal together.
What has the charity said?
Speaking to BirminghamWorld, Jody Beswick, regional manager for FoodCycle West Midlands, said: “FoodCycle as a charity has been going since 2009, and then it expanded nationally.
“The concept is really simple, it was started in 2009 by a chef – who was fed up of food waste and decided to do something with all the food waste and create these three- course meals in his pop up kitchen.
“As a charity, we network with people and seek community partners, and we then go out into the city and find areas where a FoodCycle project would be really helpful in combating loneliness and social isolation for people there.
“We then connect with supermarket surplus - so food which would otherwise be thrown away but which is perfectly fine, and then our volunteer teams take all that food and then create a vegetarian three course meal, which is open to all.
“There are no referrals or any leaflets needed - none of that – anybody can turn up and whether they’re in food poverty or feeling a bit lonely and isolated – communities just come to together and effectively break bread and enjoy a communal meal all free of charge.”
Jody said he has seen an increase in demand in recent weeks due to the cost of living crisis.
“Over the last couple of weeks we’ve seen quite a few new guests – we’ve seen numbers of 45 people turn up for a three-course meal.
“Supermarket surplus can be challenging, but as a charity, we do have funds set aside for food.
“As the demand increases, we will just keeping do what we do,we can adapt because just we never now how many guests we will get on the day.”
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