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Aber Food Surplus encourages sustainability

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Surplus food: Served to event attendees (Pic. Christopher Byrne)

Surplus food: Served to event attendees (Pic. Christopher Byrne)

THERE are many of us that hate to see food go to waste, especially perfectly edible and decent food that no one wants sitting in the bin. Thankfully though, Aberystwyth has the hope of continuously being on the food sustainability rise, courtesy of local organisation ‘Aber Food Surplus’.

In order to highlight ‘Love Food, Hate Waste’ week, where a series of events have been held, Thursday, October 27 saw Aber Food Surplus, Aberystwyth Sustainability Society and Aberystwyth University Residence Life Team join together to host an educational event at Aberystwyth University.

Prior to the screening of ‘Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story’, those who attended the event (students and staff at the university and local community members) were able to feast on a variety of perfectly fine food that would otherwise have gone to waste.

Aber Surplus was able to rescue unwanted food due to kind donations from Greggs, Aberystwyth University and Morrisons, to name a few.

It was wonderful to see the people who attended enjoying delicious soup, pasties, salads and chocolate biscuits while socialising with each other. This event was a very generous idea symbolising the very purpose of food sustainability and a chance to appreciate the food even more.

Everyone then made their way into the lecture room of the Llandinam building to await the film screening.

Chris Woodfield introduced the event by thanking everyone for attending and stated that food should be given to mouths, not bins, while explaining a bit about what the evening would entail.

Quite fittingly, the screening of ‘Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story’ was good to go as the lights dimmed for an education hour ahead.

Produced by Jenny Rustemayer and directed by Grant Baldwin, the ground-breaking documentary is a very beneficial watch for those who are interested in food sustainability.

The documentary follows a couple in America who challenge themselves to live for six months from food waste, in addition to exploring what really happens in our food system.

To fully understand the process, the documentary is split into four categories – Mindset, Consequence, Recovery and Change. The film aims to get us thinking as to how much food is wasted and from that, how much of the wasted food is still good to eat.

We learn from the documentary that, at the time of being filmed in 2014, 40% of grown food is not eaten and a third of food is not consumed globally. From this, we are able to slowly get a better insight into the effects of food waste.

On the subject of perfection, universally we all at some point or another look for food in a shop or supermarket that has no markings on it, for example. But when we step back, we realise that just because there are markings on food, does not mean it is fit for the bin – but unfortunately, the mind of retailers think differently.

To the retailers, things must look perfect and edible to the consumer, and if there is a marking/bruise on food, then it is ‘not good to eat’.

Another point that the documentary makes is the link between littering and wasting.

Society today associates littering to be a ‘sin’ or an unforgiving act that have people up in arms. Unfortunately, food waste is not treated as the same and instead, it is treated as ‘fine’ and ‘normal’. In fact, because it is so natural, it does not enter people’s minds until it is pointed out to us.

Watching the couple drive around locating bins in places like at the back of restaurants truly strikes a chord. They express the concerns they had before they started the challenge and how they thought hunting for food would be a problem but as the documentary progressed, they admitted that they find it to be easier than expected. From this, we can gather that not only is food waste considered normal behaviour in our society today, but that it continuous to carry on behind the scenes.

To illustrate the consequences of food waste, the documentary reiterates to us that despite using a lot of land to produce a lot of food, we quickly end up producing food that no one eats. As it stands in 2016, nearly 30% of the world’s agricultural land is used to grow food that is wasted. The question is, will we learn from what we do and if so, when will that be?

To get to that point, recovery is in order. To regain something that has been lost, we must learn from the estimated 60% of people who throw their food out prematurely and start to make changes in our lifestyles and our ways of thinking.

To conclude the film, the couple confide in the viewers about what they have learned from the experience and the money they saved as a result of the challenge.

Jenny, President of the Aberystwyth University Sustainability Society, addressed the lecture room to explain about the moment her perspective on food changed.

Describing her time volunteering in a Kenyan Children’s home, Jenny explained about the occasion where she found a photo of an extravagant milkshake on her Facebook newsfeed and a young child refused to believe that one person is able to consume that much.

Listening to Jenny speak about her experience clearly strikes a chord and will give you a different spin on how we all look at food sustainability. This then was followed by a Q&A session about the work that Aber Food Surplus provide in Aberystwyth and was an excellent chance for those who attended to find out how they can get involved.

The Herald spoke to Christopher Woodfield, Heather McClure and Christopher Byrne of Aber Food Surplus after the event to find out a little bit more about them: “Aber Food Surplus is made up of Chris Woodfield, Heather McClure and Chris Byrne, who met in September 2015 to form the university’s first Sustainability Society.

“The team are passionate about food waste and food security, with Chris Woodfield studying an MSc in Sustainability and Adaptation at the Centre for Alternative Technology, Heather recently completed a MA in Regional and Environmental Policy and Chris Byrne is currently studying a PhD in Food Security.”

They went on to say: “All of the team are inspired to make a positive difference in their local community here in Aberystwyth, from learning and studying about the environmental consequences of food waste contributing to climate change and also the social implications of wasting food and food poverty.”

The trio went on to tell about Aber Food Surplus and how it all began: “Aber Food Surplus is currently in the process of setting itself up as a charity-based not-for-profit social enterprise after having recently completed the Amplify Cymru social enterprise training package delivered by the Young Foundation.

“The project aims to redistribute edible fit-for-consumption food that is no longer wanted by supermarkets or retailers, ensuring this food is fed to people.

“Aber Food Surplus hopes to develop a community hub where the food can be redistributed to specific charities and community groups with the long-term aim to establish a community surplus cafe which gives this ‘waste’ or ‘surplus’ food to the community through the ‘Pay As You Feel’ model.”

In addition, they told us: “This Pay As You Feel concept has already proven successful across the UK, with two similar projects in North and South Wales. The team are inspired and enthusiastic to tackle the issue of food waste using this approach to bring the community together and hope the hub or cafe can act as a place of social cohesion and connection with local people using the space for events and activities.

Furthermore, they would like to raise awareness of how much food is being wasted and allow people to value and understand the importance of food.

About the food they provided for those who attended, they explained: “The waste or surplus food used for the event was redistributed from retailers across Aberystwyth, most notably Morrisons, who Aber Food Surplus has been working with since the beginning of year.

“The whole event was organised by volunteers, including volunteer chefs who cooked the food.”

When we asked all three about how they would encourage people to get involved with Aber Food Surplus, they explained: “The project has been facilitating the redistribution of food from Morrisons to the Salvation Army and the Wallich in Aberystwyth since the beginning of year; however, now is looking to expand and engage with other retailers and projects across the town.

“The team have no financial backing and are looking for grants and financial support with the hope of finding a premises in the centre of town to establish the redistribution network of food to the community and people who need it.

“Food waste is a universal issue and everyone can play their part in reducing wastage, whether this is via cooking more sensibly, using your green food waste bin, or challenging retailers, restaurants and cafes about what they do with their surplus or waste food.”

They all went on to say: “Food waste is often a taboo subject and, unfortunately, it appears socially acceptable to waste food. However, estimates range from as much as one third to 50% of all food produced is wasted globally, and in the UK, the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) estimate 15 million tonnes of food are wasted annually.

“Aber Food Surplus aim to make positive social and environmental change here in Aberystwyth by tackling this food wastage in a creative, engaging and community-led way.”

Finally, they added: “For those who are interested in getting involved, finding out more, volunteering or supporting the project, contact aberfoodsurplus@outlook.com or the Facebook page ‘Aber Food Surplus’.”

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Alerts issued ahead of Storm Brian

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NATURAL RESOURCE WALES (NRW) is warning people that parts of the Welsh coast could see localised flooding as Storm Brian combines with high tides this evening and tomorrow.

The conditions could cause a storm surge, which in some areas could lead to overtopping of sea defences. Current predictions show that the worst affected areas are likely to be along exposed sections of the west coast of Wales from Southern Gwynedd to Llantwit Major.

High tides in these locations are expected to peak between 6am and 11am tomorrow (Oct 21).

NRW has already issued a number of flood alerts for the west coast, and is likely to issue flood warnings for Aberystwyth and Newgale later today. Further alerts or warnings for other areas will be issued as necessary.

24/7 Emergency response workers from NRW will be out at key areas of the coast over the next couple of day to monitor the high tides and condition of its sea flood defences.

NRW has also contacted its partner agencies such as local councils and the emergency services to ensure that appropriate responses are in place should the need arise.

Richard Hancox, from Natural Resources Wales said: “Conditions across the coastline are likely to be extremely dangerous this weekend and we urge people to stay clear, and avoid visiting the coast during this time.

“We know people are tempted to try and take photos of these storms, but it really isn’t worth putting your life at risk. Sea spray and flood water can knock you off your feet easier than you might think, and the large waves can send debris flying onto shore.

“If anyone is concerned about the risk of flooding to their home, please check to see if flood warnings are available in your area, and visit our website for advice on how best to prepare.”

Flood alerts and flood warnings are updated on the Natural Resources Wales website every 15 minutes.

Information and updates are also available by calling Floodline on 0345 988 1188. People can also register for free flood warnings either by calling the Floodline number or at NRW’s website.

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​Major bequests for Aber research ​

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TWO major legacies to support postgraduate research have been announced at Aberystwyth University’s Founders’ Day held in the Old College on October 13.

The University revealed that Eleanor and David James had donated £2m to the institution where they both worked for 35 years, while former student Margaret Wooloff has bequeathed £400,000.

Both bequests will be used to fund postgraduate research at the University, in line with the wishes of the benefactors.

The legacies were announced as part of the University’s now annual Founders’ event, which echoes the celebrations held in the town back in October 1872 when the first students arrived at Old College.

The Vice-Chancellor of Aberystwyth University, Professor Elizabeth Treasure, said: “It is extremely fitting that these very special bequests have been the focal point of this year’s Founders’ Day event. They remind us how the University has been supported since its early beginnings by the generosity of the people of Wales and the wider world.

“Eleanor and David James, and Margaret Wooloff all dedicated their lives to the furtherance of knowledge and their valuable contributions to education in Wales will live on in their legacies. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude.”

The Director of Development and Alumni Relations at Aberystwyth University, Louise Jagger, said: “There is a very strong bond between the University and our family of alumni across the world. Eleanor and David James and Margaret Wooloff were all active members of the Old Students’ Association during their lives and we are immensely grateful to them for their support over the years. Their generous legacies will now enable the scholars of the future to pursue their particular fields of expertise and undertake research with impact, which is integral to our mission as a leading University.”

Members of the local community joined staff and students at the Old College to mark Founders’ Day.

The guest speaker at the event was Ceredigion MP Ben Lake who said: “The story of how Aberystwyth University – or the University College of Wales as it was originally called – is one in which we can all take pride as a nation. Driven by the vision of its founders, the dream of establishing a college with University status in Wales was made possible thanks to the generosity of ordinary people. The roots and foundations of the University reflect our values in Wales and it is vitally important that we commemorate and celebrate this very special heritage.

“May I take this opportunity to congratulate Aberystwyth on being named recently as the University of the Year for Teaching Quality by the Good University Guide – a well deserved accolade which is testament to the dedication of all its staff.”

In July 2017, the Heritage Lottery Fund announced that it had earmarked £10.5m for ambitious plans to redevelop Old College in time for the University’s 150th anniversary in 2022.

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Driving Wales to international skills success

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AS SKILLS CHAMPION for Wales, Coleg Sir Gâr and Coleg Ceredigion principal Barry Liles is at the forefront of aspiring young people to develop high quality, world-class skills.

The vehicle used to drive this ambition are skills competitions, which are held on a Welsh, UK and international level.

Competitions in Wales begin with regional Welsh Government supported competitions which are events that culminate to find Wales’ top competitors who progress to take part in UKSkills national and WorldSkills international events.

This year, 36 competitors from the UK are competing at WorldSkills Abu Dhabi, four of which are from Wales, two of which represent Coleg Sir Gâr, which is an impressive percentage of UK representation. These competitors have undergone a rigorous training process by WorldSkills UK, supported by training providers and employers.

Coleg Sir Gâr students have been selected for Team UK since 2009 when carpentry student Cliff Williams made the team in 2009 competing in WorldSkills Calgary. He was followed by web designer David Bowen who competed for in WorldSkills London, 2011. Carpenter Gareth Jones won gold in EuroSkills in 2012 followed by Simon McCall and Eleni Constantinou who won two silvers at EuroSkills in 2014 for hairdressing and carpentry with Eleni progressing to represent the UK and Coleg Sir Gâr in hairdressing at WorldSkills, Sao Paulo in 2015.

Last year, the college was ranked joint third place in the UK for its medal success in the Skills Show – the UK final, for achieving three golds, one silver and one bronze award. The show, held at Birmingham’s NEC every year, brings together medal winners from all nations to compete and showcase their skills and to hopefully continue their journey to the international arena, representing the UK in Worldskills which brings over 50 competing countries together and is likened to the Olympic games.

Barry Liles, Skills Champion for Wales said: “To have an impact on the economy and raise Wales and UK’s GVA, we must raise the skills of the UK population and we’re trying to do this from a young age and we’re significantly targeting industries that are important to Wales’ economy.

“The anticipated result is hoped to impact on young people and help them raise their ambitions and to find highly skilled work.”

In Wales, to help achieve this ambition, is a Welsh-Government funded project called Inspiring Skills Excellence (ISE), which is providing a supportive infrastructure to enable competitors from Wales to achieve success at national and international level.

“Much of our work is supporting competitors across Wales in their participation, training and mentoring to help them achieve excellence in skills relevant to economic growth and delivering medal winning success at national and international competitions,” said Paul Evans, ISE pan-coordinator for Wales.

“Using state of the art equipment we also engage with schools, providing hands-on and exciting experiences for young people to raise awareness of careers and the pathways available to them.”

Barry Liles added: “Being Skills Champion for Wales is a long-held ambition perhaps because I came from a vocational engineering background, I am very passionate about it.

“Industry skills are vital in our economy and I don’t want Wales to be left behind, in fact in the last seven years we have helped drive the nation forward to being one of the leading and successful nations in UK skills competitions.”

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