Social Surplus: Reducing Waste, Feeding the Hungry, and Creating Community

Social Surplus: Reducing Waste, Feeding the Hungry, and Creating Community

The Food Waste Collective (FWC) is helping communities take back the food system through harnessing local waste and creating methods for communal redistribution. The volunteer group is based in Brighton and Hove, a city in the county of East Sussex of Southeast England. Their mission is simple: “We hate food waste and want to do something about it, because we love food…and the planet!”

This October, FWC organized the Surplus Harvest Feast, an enormous event where surplus food, collected from community members, restaurants, and retailers, is cooked up and served, free of charge, to the public during the community arts festival, the Lantern Fayre. The organization worked alongside Food Warriors and The Real Junk Food Project to feed hundreds of festival-goers solely from local surplus food donations The volunteers collected just under half a ton of food, including fruits, vegetables, dry grains, and beans, turning them into about 1,200 servings of hot, nutritious meals!

This event not only helped provide a vision for just how much food is being wasted on a local level – over 50,000 tons of food is wasted in Brighton and Hove alone - but also provided meals to the hungry, while encouraging greater involvement from the community. The mission of the FWC goes beyond simply providing meals to those who may need it, but brings attention to the lack of social importance that should be placed on meals. This disconnect, which is so often overlooked, plays a role in the lack of appreciation that we show toward food, and may be a reason why people do not mind throwing it away. The Surplus Harvest Feast helped demonstrate the importance of sharing a meal, as hundreds of people connected with each other and the natural world. The FWC encourages the use of innovative ways to bring attention to the amount of edible food being wasted throughout the world. Instead of concentrating on the statistics or placing blame, the organization supports optimism and creativity in finding solutions and developing progress.

The FWC hopes that as local businesses see that profits are not affected by their donations, they may begin to view it a community responsibility to donate their food waste. Local businesses will be able to see the deep social importance of their actions, and view exactly how much their donations are making tangible benefits within the community.

Vera Zakharov, a chief member of the FWC, says “There’s a power about people taking action together, as they can feel part of a movement, even if they’re totally new to these issues…I want to see others in the city, from businesses to council members, becoming more aware of the opportunities which are open to us to make a real social impact around these issues.” 

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