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The New Forest food project helping families in need and saving supper from the bin

Food Rescue Kitchen founder Jane Overall (right) with food hub volunteer Gabbie
Food Rescue Kitchen founder Jane Overall (right) with food hub volunteer Gabbie

A BROCKENHURST-based community project which diverts food away from landfill and makes it available to people in need continues to go from strength to strength.

Launched by former New Forest Produce chair Jane Overall in November 2020, the Food Rescue Kitchen is currently operating daily from Brockenhurst village hall between midday and 3pm.

Jane said: “The Food Rescue Kitchen was born out of a concern about the large amount of food which is being wasted by supermarkets while at the same time many people are really struggling to make ends meet.

“People think that ‘best before’ means that you cannot use something after that date – but the reality is that nearly all food is absolutely fine and safe to eat for several days (bread and cakes) or even months afterwards (dry or tinned food).

“With fruit and vegetables you can usually tell pretty easily by sight and smell, and with bread and pastries you can often bring them back to freshness by popping them in the oven for a couple of minutes.”

She pointed to statistics from sustainability charity Wrap showing that every day is thrown away 20-million slices of bread, 4.4-million potatoes and 3.1 million glasses’ worth of milk.

Jane estimated her initiative is currently helping to feed between 60 and 70 families each week. Users are also offered tips and recipes so they can cook meals with the available ingredients.

Jane, who ran Mange-Tout Catering for over 25 years, first started collecting items such as eggs and fruit which were close to their best-before dates and made cakes and treats which she donated to the Lymington-based New Forest Basics Bank for food packages.

She used other produce to create ready meals for vulnerable residents who were isolating during the pandemic.

Jane said: “I’ve built up really good relationships with the local supermarkets. They are happy to donate the food that had reached its best before date and would otherwise have been thrown away.

“But I quickly found that the amount of food I was being offered was far more than I was able to use in the baking.”

Joining forces with Brockenhurst village hall, which also offered use of the commercial kitchen for baking, Jane launched the Food Rescue Kitchen and recruited a small team of volunteers to help with day to day running of her food hub.

There is no means-testing and visitors do not need a referral, although the initiative is primarily aimed at helping those struggling financially.

Jane said: “We have several people who are self-employed and have currently lost their income to due Covid, and others are furloughed or have had their wages cut.

“It is based on trust – we don’t means-test. If people come to us we accept they are here because they need some help.

“There is a perception Brockenhurst is an affluent area – but just like everywhere else there are families and individuals who are really struggling. We also have some users travelling from Lymington and New Milton and other local communities.”

In a bid to ensure no food goes to waste, Jane is also planning to use fruit and vegetables to make relishes and jams which can also be donated to the New Forest Basics Bank and offered for the food hub users.

Jane said: “At present, this scheme is totally self-funded, although I recently received donations from New Forest Rotary, Brockenhurst WI and the Groome Trust.”

As well as running the food hub every day, Jane also uses her own car and fuel to pick up wastage stock from up to eight local supermarkets every day.

She added: “Because I’m not registered as a charity there are lots of funding sources I cannot apply for. I was recently turned down for a grant application for £250 that I hoped to use to purchase a freezer to store some of the excess items.”

This year Jane’s contribution to community life saw her awarded the Citizen of Brockenhurst 2020.

To find out more about the Food Rescue Kitchen visit the Facebook page at @thefoodrescuekitchen-feedtheneed

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