Wonky Veg Food Waste Heroes

Screenshot 2015-01-09 at 16.29.46

2014 was the ‘European Year Against Food Waste’, and as it draws to a close and we head positively into a new year, we thought it’d be the perfect time to showcase and celebrate the innovative, inspirational and trail-blazing work of those individuals, organisations, movements, enterprises, campaigns and initiatives which are leading the way in the fight against food waste. With this issue becoming increasingly more entrenched in modern life, we hope 2015 will pave the way for even more pioneering anti-food waste philosophies, sustainable solutions, ethical creativity and most importantly, global attitudinal change.

Cutting waste and cutting shapes


Disco Soupe started in 2012 in Paris. The premise is simple – get together, bop to music, chop veg and make reclaimed food into soup (or stews, smoothies, whatever you like). Disco Soupe is now a worldwide movement, stretching from Nairobi to Belgium. The first ever event came to London in 2014, where meals were given out to the homeless of Brixton, and there’ll be another event in Kilburn later this January.

Yesterday’s leftovers, tomorrow’s chutney


Rubies in the Rubble make jams and chutneys from fruit and veg that would otherwise go to waste. Making nice products isn’t their end goal, rather it’s using up food surplus. Creating tasty jams is just something that happens along the way.

A different kind of junk food


The Real Junk Food Project intercepts surplus or waste food and turns it into nutritious meals for the community. The original café opened in Leeds, selling food on a Pay-As-You-Feel policy, and they’ve now expanded across the UK and worldwide. Founder of the Leeds café, Adam Smith, is keen to point out that the project is not a food bank. These cafés are not about money and who can or can’t afford to eat – these cafés serve as an example of how much food is wasted that is still perfectly edible. It serves to show how our current food system is simply not working.

The root-to-fruit chef

Cookworm: Tom Hunt

Tom Hunt is no newbie to food activism. He’s been involved in projects such as Feeding the 5000 and the Slow Food movement, he created Forgotten Feasts, transforming surplus food into lavish banquets and he runs Bristol-based zero-waste restaurant Poco. He’s pretty great really. Recently Tom published The Natural Cook, a cookbook about eating seasonal veg, from root to fruit so absolutely nothing is wasted.

Culinary compost kings

Silo zero-waste restaurant in Brighton

Douglas McMaster is the brainchild and chef behind Silo – the UK’s first zero-waste restaurant, based in Brighton. McMaster’s simple and sustainable restaurant has raised the bar in ethical eating and waste reduction: they throw nothing away, recycle everything, compost all their food scraps and serve only locally grown, seasonal food.

What’s the pig idea?


Thomasina Miers is the founder of Mexican chain, Wahaca and also a vocal anti-food waste campaigner. Alongside fellow waste crusader Tristram Stuart, Miers set up the Pig Idea – a campaign that aims to intercept wasted food that would otherwise be headed to the landfill, instead to be used as pig feed.

The package-free queens


Sara Wolf and Milena Glimbovski are the founders of Original Unverpact (Originally Unpackaged) – a German concept store that sells grocery completely free of packaging and operate on a BYOP policy – bring your own packaging. We hope we can see such sustainable innovation in the UK in 2015.

Leader of the pack


If we were to ever appoint a leader to our food waste battle, it would have to be author and activist Tristram Stuart, for he has been waging his worldwide war against food waste for many years. When he is not giving impassioned TED talks or exposing the issue of food waste in his compelling book, ‘Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal’, Stuart runs the Feeding the 5000, a free public feast which uses food that would be destined for the landfill, as well as other initiatives, the Pig Idea and the Gleaning Network.

Leaders of the next generation


With a passion to solve hunger and food poverty in their native Ireland and stop food waste, budding entrepreneurs Iseult Ward and Aoibheann O’Brien kick-started FoodCloud – a food sharing non-profit company that connects businesses that have too much food to charities that have too little. Their laudable efforts have even seen them win a spot in Time Magazine’s prestigious ‘Next Generation Leaders’ list.

There’s an app for that


Technical innovations have also played a significant role in tackling food waste, particularly with the emergence of new mobile apps. The Wise Up On Waste app helps kitchens monitor and reduce their waste,  while the Green Egg Shopper helps users organise and manage their groceries to prevent wastage. Love Food Hate Waste and Riverford Organic Veg apps help people productively use up their leftovers with helpful tips and recipes, while the German app Foodsharing enables users to donate or pick-up leftover food in their local community.

The glean of the crop


The Gleaning Network UK is a coordination of volunteers, food growers, and food redistribution charities who work together to harvest tonnes of unwanted and out-graded crops in UK farms which are then rescued and redistributed to those in need. The gleaning machine aims to get meaner and greener in 2015, estimating to save over 200 tonnes of fruit and veg, equivalent to over 2.7 million portions.

The social supermarket


Food poverty and the dependence on food banks was high on the agenda in 2014, and in response to this growing scandal, social enterprise ‘Community Shop’ opened in West Norwood, South London, seeking to help the poor and vulnerable by providing them with healthy surplus food at heavily discounted prices. Following the success of shop in West Norwood and a trial in South Yorkshire, 2015 is set to be an ambitious year for the Community Shop, as they plan to expand across the country, with the opening of 20 more shops, which will hopefully alleviate cases of food poverty in the UK.

Swipe for leftovers


Overdone it on the the Indian takeaway and don’t know what to do with it? Seattle-based Dan Newman and Bryan Summersett have remedied this waste conundrum by inventing Leftover Swap – an app that enables you to to share and trade your leftover food with strangers and people in your community. Simply take a snap of your excessive food, share it on the Leftover Swap database and then hungry browsers can view your excessive grub and organise a pick-up.

The surplus interceptors


FoodCycle has been at the vanguard of fighting waste for nearly six years now and show no signs of slowing down. Their model is simple: intercept food from nearby supermarkets, markets and other food retailers that would otherwise be binned, devise a three course menu from the ingredients saved and serve to the community, consisting of the vulnerable and socially isolated. Passion, fun and imagination is what drives this initiative and 2015 looks to an active year for FoodCycle, with new volunteer-powered hubs opening in Portsmouth, Hackney and Peckham.

We love wonky veg


No, we don’t love ourselves, we mean our ugly, spindly friends that inspired our blog name. You could say that 2014 was the year of the crooked carrot, the bent courgette and wonky spud. 20% – 40% of fruit and vegetables are rejected even before they reach the shop because they are ‘ugly’ looking, but a fresh crop of imaginative and original marketing campaigns air aiming to put a stop to this. French supermarket Intermarché launched their witty and original Fruits et légumes moches (Inglorious fruit and veg) campaign, as did Aussie supermarket Harris Farms Picks with Imperfect Picks, and now Jamie Oliver is campaigning to get our misshapen friends into Asda stores nationwide.

Busting waste in Berlin


Continuing on the theme of wonky veg, the Culinary Misfits – a Berlin-based sustainable eco-cafe – work against ‘produce-lookism’ and fully embrace the John Merrick’s of the vegetable world. Founders Lea Emma Brumsack and Tanja Krakowski, take all the rejected ‘ugly produce’and work it creatively into their daily menu, devising delicious and experimental dishes on the way.

We hope all these fine food waste innovators continue to flourish in 2015, and that many more come to fruition.






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