Saturday, 16 April 2011

FoodCycle Norwich Launch

Last night the charity I am one of the project leaders for: FoodCycle

had it's official launch. We had TV cameras and newspaper reports covering us and overall it really was a great success.

However, one thing is niggling me. And here I express it....

Everyone assumes that because something is free, it must be aimed solely at those in need. The media assumed this and most people I talk to assume this. (The reality is that we only ever get a handful of 'those really in need' attend each meal. They are very welcome and it's great that they attend.) However, I have a suspicion that because getting things for free is so against our social conditioning and expectations - it is so unusual - that many people feel there should be an excuse for receiving - such as disadvantage.

It was a bit like when I tried to give away twelve pound coins to strangers. I didn't get on very well there because what I was doing was so counter culture:
You can't give it away...

When we hold our meals each Friday night, the buzz in the venue is always fantastic. Everyone appears to be genuinely touched and appreciative of the giving that is happening. And the people that receive do so in the way it is intended - with warmth. (Quite often people have a flicker of guilt for 'taking' that fortunately usually manifests in a need to offer themselves as volunteers for subsequent meals!) And for me, personally, this is a huge part of what FoodCycle is about: a blatant demonstration of 'giving' and if we can infect enough people with this bug - the world will certainly be an even better place!

6 comments:

  1. Good causes often bring equivalent atmospheres - well done for volunteering.

    I'm going to Norwich next week - will wave if I pass you.

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  2. Giving away twelve pound coins? Like six pound notes?

    (I know a joke about a guy from a nation often ribbed for stupidity, who forged the perfect 12 pound note. He was so convinced of its perfection and proud of himself that he took it to a bank and asked them to change it. The cashier said "Sure, do you want two sixes or three fours?")

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  3. P.S. I also would assume that FoodCycle, being a charity, is intended for people in need. I would be unlikely to go because I am fortunate enough not to need a free meal and because I would be afraid I would be taking the meal of someone who really needed to eat.

    I don't imagine I would be alone in this assumption, a view that is bourne out by the comments in the media. I think you really do need to make it very clear that all are welcome.

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  4. I find that I come up against this viewpoint very often. The last Friday I was in Norwich I was changing the Foodcycle petty cash at the bank and having some idle chit chatter with the guy in the bank and explaining to him about Foodcycle. He seemed interested so I casually invited him along to Friends Meeting House at 7pm that evening. He looked mightily offended and said: "Erm, no."
    in a way that suggested I was being very silly and of course he would not like a free meal, even though I'm sure I had already explained that it was a COMMUNITY MEAL and everyone was welcome. I left feeling a little rattled and slightly offended myself!

    Foodcycle is a charity and a very worthy one at that. The very fact that we are creating a space where everyone is welcome and no one is under any pressure to part with their cash is almost totally unique in today's society. Strengthening the community is conducive to all kinds beneficial things to society as a whole. One of the major sources of problems today is inequality within a community (see The Spirit Level - Wilkinson & Pickett 2010) and if a university lecturer is given the opportunity to have dinner with a Big Issue seller I think that we can take one tiny small step along the way to break down those boundaries and find that they may have more in common than they think!

    This is all of course besides that fact that we are diverting several tonnes of detrimental food waste to landfill each year.

    So..... Anyone in the Norwich area please do shed your inhibitions and join in the fun!!

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  5. Mark - are you still in Norwich? I have only just got back from a little trip away. I haven't felt your wave yet.

    Mark - very good.
    We do need to make the fact it's for anyone very clear. As I wrote in the last post about FoodCycle's aims - I am not sure we can ever be solely for those in need as some of those in need might struggle to come to a hall full of cheery people. I personally feel we highlight food waste and demonstrate love most successfully!

    Thank you Leilai - very well put. Where is your blog? I also hope that one day FoodCycle will even more successfully challenge stereotypes and prejudice by bringing a mix of people together in a warm, accepting and sharing environment. See you soon xxxx

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