Friday, 28 March 2008

Love Food Champions of Suffolk reporting!

Who would have thought just a routine trip could lead to such an exciting project? On Saturday, 19th. January, I set off from home at 7.30a.m. to attend the Love Food Champions training day at Denman college, as a dutiful member of the Public Affairs Committee, thinking I was only there to meet, greet and help Noelle, NFWI, and Julia from WRAP, in any way possible! How wrong could I be! I joined in gamely with the ice-beaker and other discussions and was very impressed with the whole-hearted, participation of the rest of the group.

As the day wore on I began to realise that I may be here under a false apprehension and over lunch had a quiet word with Noelle who said, “Oh, yes, we thought you were going to be a Champion. You will, won’t you?!” Well, what could I say?! There was no way I could refuse her so that was that and on the way home I thought, “What have I let myself in for and how am I going to do this?”

Fortunately I mentioned this to one of our daughters, Hannah, and she was very interested in the whole concept and suggested I go along with her to Baby Yoga to talk to the rest of the mothers who take part. Well, what an easy way to recruit my group! They were all very keen to learn more about food waste and ways in which to cut back on it and they all signed up for it, including the teacher! Hannah very kindly offered the use of her home for the meetings and we set the first date for 27th. February. So the first part of the challenge was complete! Phew!

What about the meetings? Would they be a success? Would they come up to expectations? Would I be able to put it across properly? So much to worry about but there was no need! They all made it very easy for me – Hannah cooked a lovely meal, which we enjoyed with a glass or two of wine, the girls were more than happy to talk of their feelings about food, how they shop for it, how they store it and the tasks in the Workbook were easily completed! They were more than happy to go home and re-think their planning and shopping habits and set their goals high for the following meeting! The caddies, along with the “truth forms”, were the only things that caused any concerns! Although there was a sense of trepidation as to what they would find out from this exercise they all went home in a very bubbly mood having enjoyed a “girls night out!”

Could this euphoria be sustained through to the next evening in March? Yes! They all came back with a sense of pride as cupboards, fridges and freezers had had an overhaul and complete clean and re-organisation in one case! Their aspirations for better menu and shopping planning had been very productive and they all felt they had achieved far more than they expected. What about the dreaded caddies?! Well, they all surprised themselves and felt they did not waste as much food as they thought they would. In one household it had been named “Fran’s Naughty Bin!” The consensus was that feeding a growing baby who is experimenting with new food was the hardest to monitor as gauging amounts was not a precise art! The feeding of birds and chickens has increased around Bury St. Edmunds – let’s just hope that animal obesity does not set in as a result!!!

Having reviewed their month we then came to the fun bit of our second evening. I had asked each of them to bring something from their cupboards or fridges that needed to be used up so that we could prepare a meal on the spot. Hannah had provided several different sorts of pastas and we set everything out on the table to see what we could make! This not only tested our ingenuity but also our portion control with the pasta! Trial and error certainly came into play on this occasion and we supplied some storage bags for taking home anything surplus to requirements! Three delicious pasta dishes were concocted from half a bottle of sun-dried tomatoes, peppers, sprouting broccoli, half a bottle of pesto, cheddar and parmesan cheese onions, basil, mushrooms, eggs, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. Everyone helped with the preparation of the food before Hannah tossed it around - Ummmmm….
It worked exceedingly well and we had a super, off-the-cuff supper! To prove that freezing items also reduces waste I had prepared a pavlova-base from five frozen egg-whites I had had in my freezer and to top it off I managed to find some half-price strawberries and kiwi-fruit as they were both at their sell-by date! Only three people went home with bags of pasta to either freeze or re-heat so we felt quite proud of ourselves!

This activity not only made us aware of how we really do need to be careful with our portioning but also gave us some fresh ideas about how to use those bits and pieces that would otherwise have been consigned to the naughty caddie! They found the Handy Hints section in the back of their Journal, very useful. A good, hands on exercise, also illustrating how easy it would be to batch prepare meals to save more of our precious time.

Roll on our next meeting in April!!!

Fran Saltmarsh

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