Five years ago, I graduated from Durham University and decided to commit to a year longer in Durham, serving the place and community that I’d only seen a fraction of in my undergraduate years. I worked at the Marriott Hotel on the breakfast shifts, and filled my afternoons with youth work with Durham YFC, supporting students at Emmanuel Church, and working at Sanctuary 21, the Salvation Army Café on Saddler Street. At the end of every breakfast shift, I was made to join in throwing away extortionate amounts of delicious mushrooms, bacon, eggs, bread, cheese, sausages, gallons of freshly squeezed grapefruit and orange juice. And then I’d wander a couple of hundred metres up the road to Sanctuary 21, and serve up simple vegetable soup and cheese toasties, which to many would be the only proper meal of the day. It was the same year food banks in England saw demand escalate shockingly fast. I could not live with witnessing this extravagant waste in such close proximity to real food poverty. So I got involved with FoodCycle Durham, a hub of a national charity that aims to fight food poverty and social isolation by serving meals with food collected from local shops at the end of each day.
Skip forward some years, I now feel I’ve become a part of the community in Durham, and have come to understand the complexities, cultural/systemic problems and down-right stupidity that causes food waste, as well as the huge environmental impact that it has. I set up REfUSE in 2015 after a year of learning about social enterprise with the SSE, and it’s been a whirlwind of hard work and a lot of fun. I know it’s a drop in the ocean facing a huge issue, but we’re making an impact together, and that’s well exciting.