Unwanted food is given away in Southampton centre

Daily Echo: Cara Sandys, 3rd left, and Mohammed Ulhaq from Corriander Lounge, donate surplus food. Cara Sandys, 3rd left, and Mohammed Ulhaq from Corriander Lounge, donate surplus food.

THE tills in Southampton centre ring with people doing their lastminute Christmas shopping.

But in one High Street shop this isn’t happening. It’s not that they don’t have any customers but rather that they don’t have a till.

As was previously reported in the Daily Echo (December 3), Books for Free in Southampton is one of a chain of “shops” around the country coordinated by charity Healthy Planet, where volunteers give away old books for free to avoid them going to waste.

But the team, led by volunteer store manager Cara Sandys, wasn’t happy with stopping at books.

And now they have teamed up with local restaurants to give away food for free. When we visited, on Friday afternoon, customers, volunteers and homeless people were being treated to free curry, courtesy of nearby restaurant Coriander Lounge.

Since the “shop” first opened in October it has been offering customers “freegan” food, which is “rescued” from bins at supermarkets and is slightly out of date but still considered edible.

The food has proved popular but in the last few weeks the team has expanded its redistribution of waste food operation.

Mohammed Ulhaq, one of the managers of Coriander Lounge, popped into the shop with his nephews and was so impressed by the operation that he wanted to get involved.

“We have a lunch buffet and we can’t sell the food after it’s finished so it’s been going to waste,”

he explained. It’s all freshly cooked and we thought we could bring it here to give away.”

The restaurant is planning on taking waste food to the shop to be distributed three or four times a week.

One of the recipients on Friday was Big Issue seller Laurence Stone. He’d heard about the free food from another Big Issue seller and came along.

“It’s brilliant that it’s not just going in the bin,” he said.

“I sometimes go to supermarket bins because you can get lots of good stuff there. It’s ridiculous what gets thrown away. I’ll definitely come back again and tell my friends about it too.”

Luke Binnie, head chef at The Winston Hotel in Archers Road, Southampton, has also become involved in the scheme.

“Working in a kitchen, you do see a lot of waste. I try to cut down on it but it is scary. My boss is happy for me to bring any waste down here. If all the restaurants in town did this, there wouldn’t be any need for anyone to go hungry.”

He added that there tends to be a particularly large amount of waste at Christmas.“People order too much for Christmas parties. You get a lot more stuff being wasted than normal. As a chef, I’d much rather my food was eaten, rather than going in the bin!”

Anyone who visits the shop is welcome to have the food – the chief aim is to stop it from being thrown away and added to our mountains of waste.

One of the people enjoying Friday’s donation was volunteer Annie Sawyer, who was eating Indian food for the first time.

Cara, who is coordinating the free food project as a spin off from Books for Free, describes it as “a bit of a radical experiment”.

She says that when she started the project her chief concern was to reduce waste but now she realises there is much more to it. “I’ve always been very concerned about environmental issues and the whole shop was originally about reducing waste but you start to realise it’s all about people and community,”

she explained.

“The waste reduction issue becomes secondary to the connections you start to make to people who are vulnerable and aren’t as fortunate as you’ve been in your life.

“Normally you don’t think about these people. I would never have had a proper conversation with a homeless person before. Now I can go outside and I know all these people by name and you hope you are making a bit of a difference.”

She adds that some people are uncomfortable with the commercialism of Christmas, and that schemes like this offer an alternative.

“A lot of people recognise the excess of Christmas. A lot of waste is produced at this time of year. This is a counter-position to consumerism. This place is about making do with what you need, not taking too much. The economic mess that the world has got itself into is based on accumulation and greed – taking more than you need.

“This is an antidote to that. If we can get more people to adopt the philosophy of only taking what you need rather than piling up your plate and not finishing it, we might be in a better position.”

p Books for Free is at 170 High Street, Southampton (opposite East Street). For more information, to volunteer or donate books or unwanted food, email csandys@hotmail.com.

Comments (10)

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9:46am Tue 20 Dec 11

SotonLad says...

Why go to The Corriander Lounge when you can get it for free after lunch??

I joke of course, this is a good idea, let's hope the genuinely homeless and hungry get to hear about it and not just the junkie beggars around town.

When I was younger I worked in a food retail store and it was shocking how much food is thrown away as its out of date (most is still ok to eat though!) or damaged packaging. We were told health and safety rules prevented it being given away. Does anyone work in any supermarkets - is this still the case?
Why go to The Corriander Lounge when you can get it for free after lunch?? I joke of course, this is a good idea, let's hope the genuinely homeless and hungry get to hear about it and not just the junkie beggars around town. When I was younger I worked in a food retail store and it was shocking how much food is thrown away as its out of date (most is still ok to eat though!) or damaged packaging. We were told health and safety rules prevented it being given away. Does anyone work in any supermarkets - is this still the case? SotonLad

10:30am Tue 20 Dec 11

userds5050 says...

Hey, junky beggars gotta eat.
Hey, junky beggars gotta eat. userds5050

10:45am Tue 20 Dec 11

CyberWarrior says...

What an inspiring tale! Blessing and good Karma to all those involved in doing something unselfish to help others less fortunate. Now that's what I call true Christmas Spirit. And sotonLad, those 'junkie beggars' all have their story and it is usually a sad and tragic one as to how they ended up on the street and on the junk/booze whatever. Don't diss the needy - that might be you one day.
What an inspiring tale! Blessing and good Karma to all those involved in doing something unselfish to help others less fortunate. Now that's what I call true Christmas Spirit. And sotonLad, those 'junkie beggars' all have their story and it is usually a sad and tragic one as to how they ended up on the street and on the junk/booze whatever. Don't diss the needy - that might be you one day. CyberWarrior

11:42am Tue 20 Dec 11

solomum says...

Wow! what fantastic news. I love the part of the article that says there will be no need for anyone to go hungry if all the restaurants in town did this. That is so true. There is plenty of food in the world to feed everyone, but it sadly doesn't reach everyone. Well done to Cara and her team of volunteers and also to Coriander Lounge for donating the leftover food. I really hope that this initiative will start to spring up in Towns everywhere.
Wow! what fantastic news. I love the part of the article that says there will be no need for anyone to go hungry if all the restaurants in town did this. That is so true. There is plenty of food in the world to feed everyone, but it sadly doesn't reach everyone. Well done to Cara and her team of volunteers and also to Coriander Lounge for donating the leftover food. I really hope that this initiative will start to spring up in Towns everywhere. solomum

12:23pm Tue 20 Dec 11

Goldenwight says...

Fair play, but hardly news- I've been arranging for the collection and distribution of unwanted/time expired food among the needy for years.

The major problem I've come across is establishing who is genuinely needy and who is just a lazy scrounger- when the soup kitchen ran at St Marys, it used to get about 30 people nightly of whom about a dozen were homeless and/or obviously needy and of which at least half a dozen were just local scroungers who turned up every night for years, despite claiming benefits and having LA housing. The same people used to attend the homeless daycentres and the churches on Sunday for a free feed. At least two of them were habitual drug users who were using the money thereby saved to fund their habits.

What bothered me particularly was not the fact that they were being fed, but that there was often insufficient food to go around so they were depriving the truly needy- not that it ever bothered any of them one jot.
Fair play, but hardly news- I've been arranging for the collection and distribution of unwanted/time expired food among the needy for years. The major problem I've come across is establishing who is genuinely needy and who is just a lazy scrounger- when the soup kitchen ran at St Marys, it used to get about 30 people nightly of whom about a dozen were homeless and/or obviously needy and of which at least half a dozen were just local scroungers who turned up every night for years, despite claiming benefits and having LA housing. The same people used to attend the homeless daycentres and the churches on Sunday for a free feed. At least two of them were habitual drug users who were using the money thereby saved to fund their habits. What bothered me particularly was not the fact that they were being fed, but that there was often insufficient food to go around so they were depriving the truly needy- not that it ever bothered any of them one jot. Goldenwight

2:23pm Tue 20 Dec 11

Minger1 says...

Well said Goldenwight.
How can i volenteer? i am a single mother on benefits of 4 grown up children and 1 13 year old autistic son. so can not work full time as need to be on call all the time when he is not with me, but i thought maybe i could do volenteer work, i get bored at home all day so want to help people worse off than me.
Diane.
Well said Goldenwight. How can i volenteer? i am a single mother on benefits of 4 grown up children and 1 13 year old autistic son. so can not work full time as need to be on call all the time when he is not with me, but i thought maybe i could do volenteer work, i get bored at home all day so want to help people worse off than me. Diane. Minger1

3:48pm Tue 20 Dec 11

Goldenwight says...

Minger1 wrote:
Well said Goldenwight. How can i volenteer? i am a single mother on benefits of 4 grown up children and 1 13 year old autistic son. so can not work full time as need to be on call all the time when he is not with me, but i thought maybe i could do volenteer work, i get bored at home all day so want to help people worse off than me. Diane.
Unfortunately, I'm not one of 'theirs'- I suggest that you have a chat with the team in the shop.

Fareshare (who organise this sort of thing nationwide) www.fareshare.org.uk may also be able to give you some pointers.

No, what I have always done is to contact small shops like bakers, sandwich shops, cafes etc directly and then arrange for the distribution of their excess with local (and I mean across Southern England here) organizations.

I should point out that SOME supermarkets are far more likely to assist than others, whilst two large chains make a point of destroying leftover food deliberately to avoid this happening. You must remember that if people are being given food free it can have a knock on effect on their sales, of course.
[quote][p][bold]Minger1[/bold] wrote: Well said Goldenwight. How can i volenteer? i am a single mother on benefits of 4 grown up children and 1 13 year old autistic son. so can not work full time as need to be on call all the time when he is not with me, but i thought maybe i could do volenteer work, i get bored at home all day so want to help people worse off than me. Diane.[/p][/quote]Unfortunately, I'm not one of 'theirs'- I suggest that you have a chat with the team in the shop. Fareshare (who organise this sort of thing nationwide) www.fareshare.org.uk may also be able to give you some pointers. No, what I have always done is to contact small shops like bakers, sandwich shops, cafes etc directly and then arrange for the distribution of their excess with local (and I mean across Southern England here) organizations. I should point out that SOME supermarkets are far more likely to assist than others, whilst two large chains make a point of destroying leftover food deliberately to avoid this happening. You must remember that if people are being given food free it can have a knock on effect on their sales, of course. Goldenwight

4:35pm Tue 20 Dec 11

Condor Man says...

Times are hard and if this helps all well and good. We all waste food, if we didn't we'd probably be a lot better off.
Times are hard and if this helps all well and good. We all waste food, if we didn't we'd probably be a lot better off. Condor Man

1:14pm Thu 22 Dec 11

bigfella777 says...

If the Coriander lounge put a sign up outside their restaurant at lunchtime advertising that they were serving a buffet instead of the usual ridiculous prices maybe people would go and eat it. They used to put a sign outside advertising the buffet but then stopped doing so, I assumed they had stopped the buffet,I wonder how many other people thought the same,strange business practice to say the least.
If the Coriander lounge put a sign up outside their restaurant at lunchtime advertising that they were serving a buffet instead of the usual ridiculous prices maybe people would go and eat it. They used to put a sign outside advertising the buffet but then stopped doing so, I assumed they had stopped the buffet,I wonder how many other people thought the same,strange business practice to say the least. bigfella777

12:24am Thu 5 Jan 12

clare farmer says...

I find it strange that folks who probably don't need to avail themselves of the free food, and aren't paying for it, are wringing their hands in anguish about the potential recipients of the food. If it all gets eaten up instead of being thrown away, what's the problem?
I find it strange that folks who probably don't need to avail themselves of the free food, and aren't paying for it, are wringing their hands in anguish about the potential recipients of the food. If it all gets eaten up instead of being thrown away, what's the problem? clare farmer

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