Tuesday, 10 November 2015

FoodCycle's #BreadlineChallenge

These days, my day job is working for FoodCycle, a national food charity that serves free communiy meals cooked by volunteers from food that would otherwise be thrown away by supermarkets. I got here by volunteering at my local hub, enjoyed it so much that I wanted to do it full time, and ended up in the team running their wonderful café for a year. Now I’m working at HQ, managing a number of projects similar to the one I started volunteering at.

A major part of what we do is trying our best to raise awareness of, and tackle, food poverty in England. We are not a soup kitchen or a food bank (although our projects around the country often collaborate with both), but instead somewhere that anybody can come and eat a nutritious meal, cooked from scratch with care, and make friends in their community. Our guests sit down and have a three-course meal brought to them at laid tables, often dressed with flowers. We only serve vegetarian and vegan meals both to minimise risks of food safety and to make the meals inclusive to all cultures and beliefs. People come to eat with us for many reasons – some are motivated by wanting to do their bit to reduce food waste. Some come because it gets them out of the house, provides some respite from caring responsibilities or gives them an opportunity to socialise somewhere warm and friendly. But some come because they have little choice; they can’t afford food and they need to eat.

My daily budget during #BreadlineChallenge
Next week, our volunteers around the country and the team at HQ are taking part in the Breadline Challenge. Research has shown that those people on such limited income that they are living on the breadline have an average budget of £2.86 per day for food and drink. So that is what our budget will be too. If we want to go out for a pint, it needs to come out of the budget. If we drizzle our budget pasta with olive oil, that does too. If we travel an extra mile or so to get to that budget food store, we should probably consider how the journey was paid for, and if we grow our own herbs, we need to factor in how much they cost.

It will be the first time I’m taking part in the annual challenge – the café team decided last year that this would simply be too difficult alongside catering orders and communal eating with our volunteers – and my colleagues warn me it will be very hard. I’m already having to wimp out of taking part for a whole week as both of my parents celebrate landmark birthdays next week, which also means a party. I'll still be doing five days though - with a total budget of £14.30*. We’ve already decided as a team that we can’t eat the cookies that will inevitably be put out at a training day next week, nor can we make use of the tea and coffee supplies already in the office – these are luxuries that simply wouldn’t be available to people on the budget we are calling into attention.

I will be blogging my way through the week and sharing my menus, as well as highlighting all those pitfalls I’m sure even my careful planning won’t have seen coming – like needing chocolate at 3pm on a Wednesday…

Further information about FoodCycle's Breadline challenge, where the figure of £2.86 came from and why we are doing this can be found here.

You can sponsor me to take part in thie challenge here. All money raised goes to helping us to open more much-needed hubs around the country and support our volunteers in the fantastic work they do.

*I will be donating the £5.72 from the extra two days of the challenge week to FoodCycle


  1. Hi Sarah. A very interesting read and initiative. Just thought the sentence with "minimise risks of food safety" might be read the wrong way! Good luck with it and look forward to reading further blogs and recipes. Cheers, Phil

    1. Thanks for your comment Phil, have made a tweak so that my meaning is clearer. Check back next week to see how I get on with the challenge!