Our Community Kitchen project started in February 2021 with the aim of helping to close the loop between food waste and food insecurity in Dundee, where Signpost’s Head Office is located.
It is estimated that, each year in Dundee, over 26,000 tonnes of food goes to waste. In 2020, Dundee Foodbank gave out 14,248 emergency food parcels, equating to 149 tonnes. With so much food going to waste, no one should be going hungry.
So, with a revamped kitchen and a new member of staff in place, we started to gather in useable surplus food from local food businesses and, from the end of March 2021, we began transforming that food into freshly-cooked meals to be given out by Dundee Foodbank and three local food larders.
Find out all about what happens here in our 'day-in-the-life' video.
For more information about food parcels distributed in Dundee, see these statistics from the Dundee Community Food Network.
The food we receive changes on a daily basis, depending on what the manufacturer, farmer or retail shop has to pass on. It comes to us for various reasons. There might have been a misprint on a label and the manufacturer decided to reject the packaging. Maybe the supermarket is removing a certain product from its shelves to make room for another brand. The most common reason for food coming to us is that it’s past its ‘Best Before’ or ‘Display Until’ date. These are quality control dates that are used by the people who make or sell food to signal when the food is at its best and therefore worth the amount they are charging us. However, this food can still be safe, nutritious and tasty to eat, and that’s where we judge what we can use and what we need to put into our own food waste.
So far, we’ve received donations of food from almost 20 businesses, from nationwide catering suppliers and supermarkets to local, independent greengrocers, farm shops and community gardens. Scroll down to the image gallery for a list of our suppliers, or click here to see the info on our Facebook page.
The vast majority of the food we receive is fruit, vegetables, canned items and dried foods like pasta and rice. This means that most of what we cook is vegetarian or vegan. We see this as a positive, because a plant-centred diet is generally understood to be great for the health of people and planet.
In our first 9 months up and running, we made more than 6,100 meals and saw over 7 tonnes of surplus food pass through our doors. We are partnered with three very local food larders, where people can go and choose from a selection of groceries for a small cost, or sometimes for free. Generally, the food available from these projects has a long shelf-life (tinned or packets), although there is always fresh food available too, and our meals offer another healthy option. We also give our meals to Dundee & Angus Foodbank, who hand out emergency food parcels to people in crisis. It’s lovely to think that our food could be helping someone who needs a bit of support during a tough time in their life.
We hear a lot about food waste in the media, how it produces greenhouse gases if disposed of incorrectly, and adds up to a huge quantity of food. According to Zero Waste Scotland, almost 980,000 tonnes of food is wasted annually in Scotland. What's more, sending just a single kilogram of food waste to landfill produces the same carbon emissions as landfilling a staggering 25,000 500ml plastic bottles.
Since last March, we’ve had almost 30 people volunteering regularly at our project. It’s amazing to see all these people coming together, whether or not they feel strongly about food waste or food insecurity. Most of our volunteers are here because they want to keep busy and socialise, they want to build their language skills or they want to be involved in something meaningful.
We have people of all ages and backgrounds, working together to cook, clean or keep our records up to date. We also have three paid members of staff who keep things ticking here at our Roundhouse Food Projects.