Waste Not, Want Not: Business champions and curry re-cycle 

Gillian Hegarty, Allison Roberts and Jill Barrett at the Curry Re-Cycle

Late April, the ‘Waste Not Want Not’ project held a farm-to-fork community gathering where people from each of our focus groups (food businesses, householders and community groups) got together to plan and prioritise initiatives that we will work on over the next twelve months. Once again, the enthusiasm and ideas were flowing! We had great discussions about the need to create connections in the community to build confidence and initiate cultural change. Overall, it seems clear that we would all benefit from more collective initiatives that focus on skill and food sharing, such as batch cooking and gleaning, to share good times as well as good food! We spoke about projects in schools, building connections between businesses and community groups, as well as ideas to engage householders.

What’s next for ‘Waste Not, Want Not’? We’re now in the action phase and excited to see all these wonderful projects come to life!

On Saturday, May 18 we worked with the Clonakilty Bicycle Festival and local chef Gillian Hegarty to host a curry re-cycle with food donated by local retailers that was no longer suitable for sale, but still perfectly good to eat!  We were given onions, garlic, turmeric, ginger, potatoes, courgettes, carrots, broccoli and tomatoes!  Gillian then took all these ingredients and prepared a feast for 40, which we all enjoyed after a big lap of the town ringing our bicycle bells. 

Celebrating two food waste champions 

One theme that has come up throughout our ‘listening phase’ is the need to grow an awareness of food waste, at a community level.  To help do this, we have decided to celebrate businesses that are taking serious action to minimise their food waste. These businesses will be recognisable by the ‘Waste Not Want Not Champions’ logo, which you will soon see displayed on windows, menus and websites.  

Going forward with this series, each month we will present one or two, Clonakilty-based ‘Food Waste Champions’; and this month we have two who have already applied great measures to reduce food waste – and so deserve the title of honour right away! 

The Olive Branch: If you know this shop, you know that it is one of Clonakilty’s original food waste champions. Owner Olive Finn sums up their ethos by saying “We avoid food waste because we value food – and all the work that goes into growing and making it. We offer refills so that you can buy only as much as you need, our customers know to have a look in the discount box to see if there’s any short-dated stock they can make use of, and any veg that’s past best is offered to staff and customers.” By building a retail space that puts food first they are continually reassessing and adjusting the products they stock, the amounts the buy in and are able to stock the products of small and seasonal producers. The Olive Branch is a great place to start in celebrating the work of food waste champions!  

Our second champion is the Pike Deli. Owners Annmarie and Ryan are passionate food lovers and waste reducers – and their bakery definitely deserves the champions’ logo. Here again so much work and thought has been put into ensuring the reduction of “waste down to the last scrap of bi-product”.  Annmarie explains, “Our dream has always been to have a business that sits comfortably with our passion for the environment and our love of home grown food. When I read about the collaboration with VOICE Ireland, I was really excited for an opportunity to push our ideals further and learn more about food waste and the impact this has on our environment. Ryan and I have both worked in the food industry for most of our adult lives and feel really strongly about food waste. We have been able to reduce waste easily in the kitchen by implementing strict composting systems and by coming up with innovative ideas for using excess egg whites or raw pastry scraps. The results here were mainly down to the collective kitchen experience of our wonderful team of chefs and bakers.”

One system that Pike Deli uses to reduce food waste is ‘Too Good To Go’ – an app you can download on your phone that allows you to purchase discounted ‘surprise bags’ from local retailers made up of unsold goods at the close of the business day. Though it is hard to predict whether or not they will have anything to offer in terms of ‘leftovers’ at the end of the day, the Pike Deli have continued to use the App. “Too Good To Go has been a comfort to us on days that have been a wash-out or days where we’ve just overestimated production.” Though they have had some teething problems, as they are currently the only independent shop to be offering this service in town and so do a lot of the consumer education around how it works, they have stuck with it because “it offers us a way to avoid any waste and get the cost of ingredients back.” Annmarie concluded her experience with ‘Too Good To Go’ by saying “I would recommend it wholeheartedly to other businesses for this reason. I also love to see our regular customers availing of it so they get a nice surprise bag.”

Food waste reduction will always be a work-in-progress, and we are all food waste champions in the making. That’s why, with the help of our community partners Clonakilty Tidy Towns and the Community Resource Centre, we will be running as many pilots and projects as we can in the next 12 months.  We hope to encourage everyone to get involved and learn, share and volunteer. Keep an eye out for our announcement of a new Clonakilty Apple Harvest Festival late September, events co-hosted with Meals on Wheels and the Guitar Festival, more workshops with chefs and projects with local schools, all alongside larger initiatives like ‘Stop The Sachets’ which we will be working on over the coming months. Find out more and sign up for our mailing list at www.voiceireland.org/wastenotwantnot

Allison Roberts

Allison Roberts is the Founder and Head Chocolatier at Clonakilty Chocolate.

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