When I became a vegan, I was asked by a friend if I could help her cook vegan food for her food stall to show the public how delicious vegan food is. I started cooking Jamaican patties for her stall and as my food grew popular and I started to take cooking more seriously.
My food campaigning started when I discovered FoodCycle at a local community centre. I noticed the people wearing ‘FoodCycle’ aprons and was told it was a UK charity that creates three-course meals from surplus food to support the local community. After learning what they did, I felt compelled to volunteer for them.
Volunteering with FoodCycle made me start to see food in a different way. Seeing how much perfectly edible food was wasted really had an effect on me. It made no sense that food was being thrown away when families are struggling to feed themselves.
I’ve also spent time volunteering with Bristol Waste Company, which taught me lots about recycling and let me engage with the public and hear their issues first hand. I shadowed all the community engagement officers and questioned them to find out what they actually did. I realised that the way to engage with the public and encourage recycling is not through pressure but through being friendly and approachable.
There are simple ways to reduce the amount of food you waste: plan your meals, stick to a shopping list, store food in the right places and always use your kitchen caddy bin. Stock rotation, moving expiring items to the front and fresher items to the back, stops food spoiling. There are many apps that help with reducing food waste and Love Food Hate Waste has an incredible website with lots of tips too.
People get confused by labels: ‘use by” is the most important label which advises using a product by a certain date or it may spoil, and that carries health implications. The label ‘best before’ just points to the quality of food, meaning your sandwich is at its “best” before this date and after it won’t be as fresh, but it will still be perfectly edible. “Sell by / display until” is for in-store use only to help keep track of stock.
Food Waste Philosophy: my food waste journey
I wrote the Food Waste Philosophy book to document my relationship with food from childhood to the present day and share ideas on food waste, education, sustainability and environmental issues. In it, I question whether celebrity chefs should do more to promote waste-free cooking and look at how food is used as an indicator of wealth, vegetarian stereotypes and much more.
The book took around two years to write. I had to write down all my experiences with food, including negative ones. I wasn’t always into reducing food waste and recycling, but I felt the need to be transparent and expose my old habits.