Article originally posted on Barefoot Media blog, Feb 2017. To read the original, click here.
Chefs Stuart Millard and Mike Greer are men on a mission. Their aim is a simple one – to reduce food waste and tackle food poverty in Cornwall in one fell swoop. Ambitious? Maybe. But for Stuart and Mike, it’s an elementary solution to a problem that really shouldn’t exist.
“We began getting interested in food waste when we were asked to cater for an event at Eden last year,” says Stuart. He and his team were asked to put together an innovative menu for the launch of The Crunch, a national program that aimed to increase conversations about food, health and the environment. But this wasn’t any old buffet. The brief was to create something that was bold, beautiful, and crafted entirely from waste and surplus food. Stuart and his team jumped at the challenge.
“For me, it’s how I was taught to cook in the first place,” says Stuart, whose day job is to turn out 130 covers every day in the Eden Project Link Lodge staff restaurant using largely waste and surplus food from the public-facing catering outlets across the site. “So I guess I was already doing it really.” He shrugs nonchalantly. “Except, I didn’t know what a big problem food waste was then.”
Through his involvement with the project, Stuart and his colleague Mike, also an Eden chef, began to understand the scale of the food waste problem. 7 million tonnes of food and drink are thrown away in homes in the UK every year, and more than half of this could be eaten.
Add to this the waste from supermarkets, shops and restaurants, and we have a significant problem. At the same time, there are approximately 8 million people in the UK living in food poverty. People that are unable to feed themselves and their families a healthy, nutritious meal.
Stuart and Mike knew they had to do something, and so Keep Cornwall Fed was born. A registered social enterprise, Keep Cornwall Fed is a bespoke catering company with a unique proposition: for every meal they sell commercially, they donate one meal back to someone in food poverty.
They launched in January and have set themselves an audacious target for their first year – to feed 5,000 people and give back 5,000 meals to people in food poverty in Cornwall. The model works by building on the skills that Mike and Stuart have always taken for granted as chefs – namely buying well, and utilising every single part of every ingredient.
The pair have long-standing relationships with local suppliers, meaning they can buy the best quality ingredients for paying gigs and get first refusal on surplus produce that might otherwise go to waste. This, along with their inventive cooking, allows them to keep costs low whilst producing a menu that it local, seasonal and of the best possible quality.
Six weeks in and business is booming. Their launch event was the annual Eden Project staff party, where their converted horsebox and eye-catching yellow gazebo saw them provide big pan catering with a cool street food vibe for over 300 people.
They have already secured summer festival bookings, their first wedding at Pengenna Manor, and will be providing the staff and volunteer catering at Creation Fest, as well as dishing up something special for the Wadebridge Foodbank charity fundraiser at the Royal Cornwall Events Centre in April.
The boys have also been busy giving back, building relationships with local organisations and charities that work with people living in food poverty. Their first give-backs have been cooking with teenagers and young people at Fourways Youth Centre in St Blazey.
“It’s a really rewarding part of the job,” says Mike. “The kids are great, and the giving back is the bit that really motivates us.”
If you would like to book Keep Cornwall Fed for an event, you can contact them via their website: www.keepcornwallfed.com
They would also love to hear from local organisations working with people in food poverty, and food and drink suppliers who would like to partner with them to reduce food waste and end food poverty in Cornwall.
Thank you to Emma Fowle for contributing this article to Barefoot Cornwall. Emma is a freelance writer and blogger based in Cornwall. Visit emmajfowle.com for more information about her work, or to get in touch.
Images provided by freelance writer/photographer Kieran Webber, visit kbwebber.wordpress.com for more information.