Sunday, 9 December 2012

Food Poverty At Christmas

“Food prices have risen in real terms by 12% over the last five years” (Defra)

“Falling income (after housing costs) and rising food prices produced a double effect, reducing food affordability by over 20% for lowest income households.” (Defra)

“Around 4 million people in the UK are estimated to suffer from food poverty.” (Food Ethics Council)

“6.1 million people in poverty are in working households. Excluding pensioners, in-work poverty now outstrips workless poverty at 5.1 million households.” (Joseph Rowntree Foundation)

“Between 18 and 20 million tonnes of food is wasted in Britain each year” (Defra)

There are some big numbers involved with food poverty, but let’s reduce it down to one: where would you go if you had no money left to feed your family?

The charity FareShare redistributes surplus in-date food from the food industry to organisations who directly assist people who need it. EMERGE works in partnership with FareShare here in the North West to distribute donated fresh, frozen and ambient produce to over 75 community organisations including those who work with the elderly, children, young adults, families, refugees and asylum-seekers at drop-ins, residential centres, Surestart centres, and breakfast and after-school clubs. The kinds of people supported are dealing with hardship in various forms, people who are homeless, unemployed, suffering hardship or abuse, and people dealing with substance or alcohol abuse often due to mental health issues, bereavement, illness or longer term vulnerabilities.

Importantly, the savings made from the donations of food enable beneficiary organisations to use their hard-pressed funds to support the needy to address the causes of poverty and hardship with a view to becoming more self-sufficient and resilient in the longer term.

There are multiple opportunities for volunteering both for people who are long term unemployed and for corporate volunteers to contribute to this important service, not to mention food companies who may have edible in date surplus food who want to avoid disposal costs.

Just before Christmas 2012, FareShare NW will be running a Christmas Food Service providing food thanks to the Buckingham Appeal and various suppliers.

We need volunteers to help from the 19th-21st December inclusive.

For more info please contact Liz (Volunteer Coordinator) or Seb (FareShare Manager) on 0161 223 8200

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Growing Good Cities


This month Think Tanks Demos and PwC published a report, Good Growth For Cities, which measured the success of cities throughout Britain in terms of economic wellbeing. A list of 10 factors considered important for growth was drawn up after consultation with politicians, businesses and the public. Top of the list were jobs, health and housing. At the bottom were the environment, a sense of a future, and transport.

Not surprisingly the highest ranking cities were in the South with the lowest in the North East.

The recommendations the report makes for improving the ‘good growth’ of cities is a common sense one of looking to local resources and strengths. It suggests the power to make decisions should be devolved from central government and loosened from local politicians. The ideal would be to have an inspiring leader with a clear vision on how the city could be rebranded and competitively positioned to create economic success by engaging with key local stakeholders and businesses. Your city would then be transformed into a ‘smart city’.  

The language the report is written in is that of the business world. Can a city be treated as a business? 

Meanwhile another Think Tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research, has reported on the economic woes of the North. A future conference will discuss such questions as what a successful Northern economy would look like, where will economic growth come from, and how will this be financed. Again decentralisation is given as an answer. Improved transport is also suggested, in particular turning Manchester in the UK’s second international hub airport.

The economic growth of a city and improvement of its citizen’s wellbeing is a difficult problem to solve. Clearly there are still masses of opportunities in waste reuse and recycling that are currently underexploited in Greater Manchester. EMERGE is working to expand this crucial job market by collecting from more from businesses and schools and contributing to the process of manufacturing secondary materials into future products (all the more reason to ‘buy recycled’!). Through our FareShare work, we are also expanding opportunities for food awareness through growing food locally, encouraging healthy eating and ‘love food hate waste’.  

How would you grow and sustain the health of a city? And can you help EMERGE with our mission? Please check us out and contact us via

Friday, 23 November 2012

Plastic Travels A Long Way To Be Recycled

We all put our plastic bottles in the recycling bin don’t we?

And we know our council empties our bin into a truck that drives away down the road, and then our bottles get recycled. Good, job done. But where exactly do the bottles go once they’ve been picked up?

The majority are exported to China.

Britain exports 60% of the plastic it generates, and the vast majority of this is sent to China.

You may have heard worrying stories of our waste being dumped in other countries with the implication we are offloading our waste onto someone else because we want to keep our green and pleasant land clean, but in this case of washed post-consumer plastics the reason for exportation is simple economics.

China and countries like it have a larger manufacturing industry than the UK. Plastic is a valued raw material, for example, the plastic recycled from milk bottles (HDPE plastic) can be turned into crates or packaging film, and that from fizzy drinks bottles (PET plastic) can be spun into textiles to create clothes made from fleece. There is money to be made from sending our waste on empty containers back to China to supply materials that will eventually be made into goods that will come back to us on the same containers.

At first glance this seems a neat solution to keeping plastics from landfill, but there are some aspects to this cycle that are worth thinking about.

Firstly, it relies on a continued and uninterrupted demand for plastic waste from China. Recently this situation has been changing. As China’s own internal recycling systems improve it naturally needs to import fewer raw materials. China has set a target of recycling domestic plastic of 70% in 2015. Perhaps an ambitiously high goal, but certainly one to concern exporters.

 Don’t forget we aren’t the only country taking part in this industry. We are ‘competing’ with other countries, notably the US, Japan and Germany. Britain accounts for only 10% of China’s plastic waste imports. With a large amount of waste coming its way China has the freedom to choose whose plastic to accept. Quality becomes important. Apparently they consider our plastic waste of a good standard, but not the best. In the last few months the Chinese have banned the import of unwashed post-consumer plastic scrap, and Malaysia has stopped importing all solid plastic waste from the EU. The market for our waste is reducing. Does this imply we are going to have to find new solutions to our problem?

This is an issue about taking responsibility for the waste we generate.

Those involved in Britain’s recycling industry, from those who collect the waste, and the processers, through to plastics manufacturers and WRAP (the Government’s Waste & Resources Action Programme) are urging the government to invest in more recycling facilities. There is money to be made by dealing with plastic waste here.

Wouldn’t it be good if the driver for a more sustainable system wasn’t simply economics, but an ethical concern for the environment and its inhabitants as well?


Thursday, 15 November 2012

FareShare Nominated For An Award

We are pleased to announce that EMERGE’s partners, FareShare National are a finalist in the BBC Food and Farming Awards.

Yes, we’re now rubbing shoulders with TV chefs. We’ve been foraging with Hugh, knocking back pints with Angela Hartnett (I bet she does pints), and cooking pukka grub with Jamie ... well, perhaps not, we haven’t reached celebrity status just yet.

FareShare logo

FareShare National and its partner, Sainsburys, have been nominated for an award in the ‘Best Big Food Idea’ category, a new category for this year designed to highlight innovative ideas about how food can be sourced and sold. Their “Million Meals Appeal” asks Sainsbury’s customers to donate tins and other staple food items over a week-end in October every year.

The BBC Food Awards have always celebrated small, individual food producers, caterers and retailers, but this category looks at wider networks of food provision. For example, one of the nominations is Waitrose who are trying to source sustainable palm oil and soya. Another is in the incredibly energetic town of Todmorden where a number of schemes have been set up to grow and distribute food locally. The multi-layered ambition of FareShare is then a perfect fit for this group, and EMERGE is delighted to be a partner running the Manchester depot, expanding operations in the North West.

Our own idea here in Greater Manchester is not only to redistribute quality food that would otherwise go to waste, but to improve employability by providing training in our warehouse, and to offer cookery courses that show tasty nutritious meals can be created cheaply. We really do have a ‘Big Idea’!
FareShare is a national UK charity supporting communities to relieve food poverty. FareShare is at the centre of two of the most urgent issues that face the UK: food poverty and food waste.
And as Dan Saladino, the producer and co-presenter of Radio 4’s The Food Programme seems to have similar concerns we’re hoping that FareShare are in with a chance of winning:
“We believe, as many others do, that the world can be seen through the lens of food, nearly every issue, every news story has a food dimension to it, and so food as a subject provides stories of pleasure, fun, history and memory, but food is also a very political subject, and at the centre of stories about economics and conflict.”
A number of other Manchester based projects were short-listed for an award (we hosted part of the assessment as one of the judges lives in Macclesfield). In our category Manchester Fruit & Veg People were considered, and The Kindling Trust were nominated for the Derek Cooper Award. This is good to see because nominations are made by the public. It seems Manchester is a city with lots of ideas and the energy to put them into action.

The winners will be announced on the 28th November. Fingers crossed.

Garden 65

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Food: Our Weakest Link?

Lester R. Brown, one of the world's most renowned environmental authors and founder of the Worldwatch Institute and the Earth Policy Institute , has just released his new book, Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity.

Why is it important? Well, as some of us may have noticed, global society isn't exactly stable at the moment. Mr. Brown believes a lot of this instability comes down to food. We'd be wise to agree with him.

Food is the one thing we all need. But it's not that easy to get anymore. Population growth, water shortages, soil erosion, climate change, increasing demand for meat and dairy products, land grabs, using grains for biofuel... all these things, Brown argues, makes food the weak link of global society:

"I used to think, for our modern, technologically-advanced society, food couldn't be the weak link. I now think not only that it could be the weak link but that it is the weak link." 

Now, I always try to blog with an optimistic, often jovial attitude to environmental issues. I toyed with the idea of writing some sort of Anne Robinson joke in here, or perhaps drawing a Weakest Link cartoon where the contestants were various foods. But I can't. This is far too serious an issue to joke about. Things need to change.

How does this all tie in with EMERGE and FareShare? Preventing waste, my friends. If there's one thing simple thing we can all do to help ease this situation, it is to not waste food

You can read Chapter 1 of Full Planet, Empty Plates for free here.
The Contemporary Caveman

Friday, 9 November 2012

Fashionable Recycling

I'm hardly the most fashionable person in the world. I can't bring myself to wear skinny jeans, I can't wear those flat caps that are 'in' at the moment without actually looking like an apprentice farmer, and I'm not entirely sure what a cummerbund is or does.

I was the kid at school who never quite got it right on mufti days. I was the awkward teenager who was always just behind the trend. I was the guy who went on holiday and could never walk properly in flip flops. Less casual beach bum's stroll, more soldier's parade march. One thing I can do, though, is recycle. I can recycle till the cows come home, my friends. (On that note, maybe I should be wearing one of those flat caps).

Some may argue that recycling hasn't got anything to do with fashion. Those who do are in need of some 21st century education. Wasting stuff is not fashionable. It's an attitude that needs tackling, something EMERGE aims to do every day.

This month, from the 13th to the 23rd, Recycle for Greater Manchester are running their award-winning Watch Your Waste campaign which seamlessly (see what I did there?) blends fashion and recycling into loving siblings. Along with partners Stitched Up, there's free sewing classes helping you to re-vamp your wardrobe and a "Science of Fashion" show at the Museum of Science and Industry where you can mingle with upcycling designers. I might even learn how to turn one of my old jumpers into an exciting range of flat caps.

To find out more, check out RFGM's page!

The Contemporary Caveman

FareShare's October Success

On the 6th and 7th of last month, Sainsbury's Million Meal Appeal - an 18-year-long partnership with the national FareShare network - saw the donation of 2 million meals to those in need, exceeding the total of last year's event! A great start to October, and it only got better for our guys at FareShare North West, with something of a media flurry breaking out as the days rolled by.

On the 10th, Oxfam's Harriet Knowles wrote an article pronouncing FareShare NW as "Food Heroes". Harriet was amazed at the amount of food a small, volunteer-dependent organisation can distribute, and you can read her kind words here.

And we're not finished yet. On the 16th - World Food Day - The Independent ran a story written by Lindsay Boswell, CEO of FareShare. Lindsay highlighted the rising issue of tackling hunger in the UK and explained FareShare's vital work in providing proper breakfasts before school for children all over the country. There's also a video starring our very own Mr. Hollywood, Seb! Check it out!

The Contemporary Caveman

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Fancy a bit of gardening this weekend?

Got anything planned for this Saturday?

How about doing a bit of friendly gardening?

(to) garden /ga:dñ/
1. To grow vegetation and/or cultivate food, particularly for recreation. A fun and rewarding experience for all ages. An increasingly valuable and respected activity that is easy to learn!

Okay, I admit it, that definition wasn't taken directly from a dictionary. I made it up. Some would perhaps argue it isn't even a verb. But nevertheless, gardening is indeed fun and valuable, so how about learning a bit more about it?

Our Learning & Demonstration Garden at New Smithfield Market, Openshaw, will be open to the public this Saturday as part of the Big Dig project that is sweeping across the nation this year. Big Dig aims to get over ten thousand people involved in community food growing nationwide. You can find a whole host of gardens opening up to the public on the Big Dig site here.

At the EMERGE garden we'll be hosting a range of free activities, including a cookery demonstration (using our own freshly-grown ingredients!), a planting and harvesting demonstration, a quiz and various refreshments. 

As you can see below, our garden is a little haven! Worried about rain? Fear not! We have ample space under our gazebo and polytunnel.

We'd love some volunteers for the event too, so if you fancy a little bit of healthy gardening and a lot of fun, give Liz a call on 0161 223 8200, pack your best gardening footwear and a waterproof and come on down! Everybody is welcome!

The EMERGE Garden is situated next to the front entrance of New Smithfield Market, off Old Ashton Road, in Openshaw, M11 2WJ. You can't miss it as you come into the market- it's the beautiful Garden of Eden lookalike on the left. Hope to see you there!

The Contemporary Caveman

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Seasoning Your Food

It's hard to recognise the boundaries between seasons these days. Is there such a thing as Summer in the UK now? It's arguably more logical to skip that bit out and see it as Spring and Autumn with a couple of warmish days thrown in between. And I literally mean a couple. In fact, this weekend we had perhaps the first global definition of a 'hot' day in months (rather than a British definition of a hot day, which more often than not still involves at least 2 layers of clothing). 

Whether or not we believe four seasons really exist anymore, it seems plants still do. They always seem to know when they should and shouldn't be 'in season'. Sometimes this is easy to forget in a modern world where we have everything available to us at the supermarket year round. But here's why we should be trying to eat with the seasons (and it's not as horrible as you think).


I recently read a fantastic book by Lancaster-based sustainability consultant Mike Berners-Lee called How Bad Are Bananas?. It details, in a very readable and enjoyable format, the carbon footprint of pretty much everything, including bananas (turns out they're not bad at all!). Berners-Lee uses a fairly technical method that calculates an estimation of the carbon footprint of a product including all loose ends (sourcing, transport, equipment, upkeep of said equipment, packaging, power consumption of all involved processes, etc etc), and the results where seasonal food is concerned are eye-opening.

Here are a couple of examples:

- A 250g pack of locally-sourced, seasonal UK asparagus (April to June) has a total footprint of 125g CO2e. Out of season, however, asparagus is air-freighted to the supermarket shelf from countries as far away as Peru, creating a carbon footprint of around 3500g CO2e! If my maths is right, that's a whopping 27 times more damaging to the environment, for exactly the same amount of veg. This increase is mostly due to the fact that asparagus has a short shelf life and therefore needs to be flown rather than shipped (emissions by air are more than 100 times more damaging to the climate than emissions from shipping). 

- A punnet of in-season local strawberries (May to September) has a footprint of 150g CO2e, but when grown out-of-season locally - in a heated greenhouse - those same strawberries can have a footprint of around 1800g, 11 times more damaging to the environment. Even though both are local so there are no extra transport costs, it takes a huge amount of energy to grow things in an artificially-heated environment, hence the big difference.

- A banana has an estimated footprint of 80g CO2e (we obviously don't grow them here so this is a ballpark figure for bananas grown abroad). That's pretty good for food that has to travel thousands of miles to get to your fruit bowl. This is because bananas have a long shelf life so they can be shipped rather than flown, which is much more environmentally-friendly. The same is true for apples and oranges. 

So, it is soooooo much better for our environment to eat seasonal fruit and veg. But it's not all doom and gloom. We need not banish food grown out of the UK - as long as it's grown naturally and shipped over, rather than air-freighted, the carbon footprint won't be that bad. In fact, if it's out of season in the UK it's actually better to buy it from abroad than from heated greenhouses nearer to home. Berners-Lee makes the following point: "If something has a short shelf life and isn't in season where you live, it will probably have had to go in a hothouse or on a plane."

Of course, the most environmentally-friendly - and simplest - thing you can do is not waste your food, wherever it's from. 

For info on what's in season in the UK, have a peek here.

Berners-Lee, Mike. (2010) How Bad Are Bananas?. Profile Books, London.

__________ Laurence
The Contemporary Caveman

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

London's Ugly Duckling

We hope you all enjoyed the Olympics just as much as we did! What a fabulous result for Team GB and for London, who did a sterling job showcasing the world's premier cultural and sporting event. In the water in particular we excelled, winning 22 medals (including 7 golds) in swimming, sailing, diving, rowing and canoeing. But if we're leaving a legacy for these sports, surely we should be leaving a legacy for our waterways too? That's what Thames21 - an environmental charity in London - is trying to do as part of their Big Waterways Clean Up 2012 campaign, a London 2012 partnered project to clean up the rivers before the Olympics and maintain them in the future.

Did you know that it's not actually anyone's job to get litter out of our rivers? The shopping trolley floating lazily downstream, the crisp packets, the plastic bags... without volunteers at organisations like Thames21 they won't be fished out.

Thames21 are out to show that river litter needs to be dealt with and they've recently helped send out the message in a quite fascinating way. Last month London's residents came face to face with a huge 2.5 metre duck calmly minding its own business on Regent's Canal. Design students Ferdinand Povel and Essie Salonen, armed with over 2000 plastic bottles fished out of the Thames by volunteers, created 'The Rubbish Duck', probably the largest water-dwelling bird in history. It was an ambitious project, but they had a quack at it (sorry) and just look at the final result!

Co-creator Ferdinand says, "The sculpture symbolises the disregard towards the local environment but also draws attention to a larger problem plastic pollution causes globally."

It's a fantastic masterpiece that sends a serious message about the sheer amount of plastic pollution we are responsible for and the direct effect it has on our wildlife and environment. Without people like Ferdinand, Essie and Thames21 highlighting this problem, the Thames may never lose it's reputation as one of the dirtiest rivers on the planet.

The state of our own waterways in Manchester aren't of a gold medal standard either. No matter where you go in the city centre; the Irwell; the Medlock; the Canal network; when river levels are low you'll see the banks littered with... well... litter. Since the '80s lots of work has been done to reverse the effects of pollution from the Industrial Revolution and bring back wildlife, but we still suffer from fly-tipping and littering.

Rubbish on the banks of River Irwell

Only the other day I saw a guy who was walking over Blackfriars Bridge in the city centre finish his drink and throw the empty bottle into the Irwell without a care in the world. Luckily, Karma got involved shortly afterwards and the man tripped and fell over on the pavement, to the merry amusement of other passers-by. But without the vital education and involvement from charities like Thames 21, I fear we may be fighting a losing battle.

Let's love our waterways and, who knows, maybe a beautiful bird will grace our waters one day? I've heard the larger species can be migratory...

The Rubbish Duck was on show during July's Regent's Canal Festival and is currently swimming through London. It will appear at the Angel Canal Festival in September before finally being recycled by Eco Plastics and Grundon later this year. You can learn more about the project at

The Contemporary Caveman

Monday, 16 July 2012

Lucy's Big Ride, Days XIV & XV

On Sunday Lucy finally made it! In 15 days she's cycled 900 miles from Land's End to John O'Groats - one corner of Britain to the other! It was a tough journey but she arrived at the finish line in glorious sunshine with some (well-deserved) sparkling wine close at hand.

John  O'Groats - The Finish Line!

Lucy would like to thank everyone that supported her through the journey and donated to her cause. Remember, everything she raises goes to FareShare North West, which helps those in food poverty by diverting perfectly edible food away from the waste chain. And the story's not over yet - Lucy and EMERGE are planning various events over the next few months to raise further money for FareShare. Please continue your support here and watch this space!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Lucy's Big Ride, Day XIII

Only 120 miles to go now! Lucy and co did a 50 mile leg yesterday - less than usual - in order to get a bit of rest before the final push this weekend. Unfortunately, Inverness YHA didn't turn out to be the most restful place; a host of teens were also calling it home for the night. Oh dear!

Lucy is going onwards and North Eastwards to Helmsdale today before finally reaching John O'Groats tomorrow, so tomorrow's blog will be the last in the series (sob!). I'm hoping to put up a fancy map to show you just how far Lucy has gone in support of FareShare.

On to today's topic- how to feed a human population that is growing like a colony of particularly frisky rabbits. Try this fact for size: by 2050 we'll have around 2 billion extra humans to feed. Scary, huh? We'll have less available land to grow food on as well, and farming itself could get more difficult with that big elephant in the room, climate change, having an increasingly noticeable impact as the century progresses. Funnily enough (you have to laugh to stop from crying), there's not much being done to address the problem at the moment. With that in mind, perhaps it would be better to compare humans with lemmings rather than rabbits.

So what can we do? As the article linked above admits, it will take more than just technological innovation and more efficient farming practices to improve the situation. One of the biggest issues is trying to increase food production without causing further damage to the environment. That means choosing what we eat more carefully. The easiest change we can make now is buying local. It makes complete sense: reduce your environmental impact, support your local farmer and local economy, increase the nation's self-sufficiency. The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) is currently asking for people to take the 30:30 Pledge by sourcing 30% of your food from within 30 miles of where you live. That sounds like a good way to start! Watch this space.

It's not too late to support Lucy and FareShare North West! Please donate here. There are also long-term PR packages available to corporate sponsors, so get in touch with Lucy at

Friday, 13 July 2012

Lucy's Big Ride, Day XII

Yesterday Lucy and co reached the Scottish Highlands after a 74 mile slog. She spent the night at Newtonmore with the knowledge that she's only got a couple of days left on the trip! Her legs must surely be looking forward to a nice sit down!

There's still time to support Lucy! She's putting in an absolutely amazing amount of effort so let's see her home with a final fundraising push! If you haven't donated already, please please please do so now. FareShare North West and EMERGE thank you!

Now, on to our food-related subject for the day. According to reports, it seems that food waste isn't just a behaviour issue, it's also an appetite issue. Apparently, the wet weather is putting us off traditional Summer foods, leaving fruits and salads alone and wilting on supermarket shelves. Farmers are losing out, with many under threat of going out of business, and lots of Summery food is going to waste! Come on guys, let's forget about the weather and eat those lovely strawberries anyway! They taste just as good!

Once again, it's not too late to support Lucy and FareShare North West! Please donate here. There are also long-term PR packages available to corporate sponsors, so get in touch with Lucy at

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Lucy's Big Ride, Day XI

Yesterday's leg of  the trip took Lucy to Comrie Croft in Perthshire. She's now only got around 250 miles to go!

Now Lucy's deep into Scotland it's a perfect time to mention an inspirational little girl from Argyll who started blogging about her school lunches, bringing a local council to its knees and making a ridiculous amount of money for a food poverty charity in the process!

Martha Payne, 9, was so unsatisfied with her school lunches that she started a blog called NeverSeconds, taking a photo of each meal and providing the vital statistics for readers, including mouthful count, health rating and number of hairs. The meals were less than appetising at times and Martha won support from fellow school lunch revolutionary Jamie Oliver and her school agreed to provide unlimited fruit and veg at lunchtimes. The local council even had the audacity to ban this 9 year old girl from taking pictures of her lunches but were then forced to back down due to Martha's overwhelming fanbase.

Martha still blogs and other children from all over the world are sending her pictures of their school lunches with their very own stats and scores. It's a wonderful, funny read and the best bit is she's raising money for the international food poverty charity Mary's Meals. With all her press attention and public support, so far she's raised over £100,000!!! You can help her too by clicking here.

PS- One of Lucy's cycling partners, Carol Bradshaw, is celebrating her birthday today! Happy Birthday Carol! She's raising money for Simply Cycling and Francis House Children's Hospice, so take a look at her own blog here.

It's not too late to support Lucy and FareShare North West! Please donate here. There are also long-term PR packages available to corporate sponsors, so get in touch with Lucy at

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Lucy's Big Ride, Day X

Lucy has now cycled 640 miles so she's over two thirds of the way to John O'Groats! Yesterday she cycled from Dumfries & Galloway to Lanarkshire in Central Scootland and unfortunately the weather has been horrible. While we've all barricaded ourselves inside against the wrath of constant rain over the past few days, Lucy has been struggling through it. This is perhaps a good time to thank The North Face store at the Trafford Centre for sorting Lucy out with a  nice waterproof cycling jacket for the trip! But how is this terrible weather affecting UK farming? Potatoes, carrots and apples aren't so lucky - waterproof jackets only come in certain sizes.

The recent relentless rain will spark fear into farmers across the land because it means more bad harvests. Recently, Jersey Royal potato growers have announced this to be the worst growing season in 20 years, with one farmer admitting that his last good crop was way back in 2008. Despite more being planted, the weather means that there will be thousands of tonnes of potatoes missing on the market this year. The rain has also affected fruit crops, with the moisture overload causing soft fruits to split, risking outbreaks of disease.

This is bad for the economy but also for UK food security. We currently import around 40% of our food and the constant bad weather is making farmers think twice about growing a wide range of crops, which means risking even more dependence on importing fruits and vegetables. For example, when farmers can't provide supermarkets with their full quota due to poor harvests, it's them that take the hit as they are forced to purchase the shortfall. This leads to many considering growing less perishable and more secure crops in bulk- such as winter wheat. You can't blame farmers for changing what they grow in order to put food on the table for their families... but nobody's winning if all we can put on the table each day is Weetabix. Let's give our farmers support and help make the UK more self-sufficient by making sure we buy British fruit and veg whenever possible!

"Mooooooake sure you buy local!"

Please continue to support Lucy and FareShare North West by donating here. There are also long-term PR packages available to corporate sponsors, so get in touch with Lucy at

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Lucy's Big Ride, Day IX

Day 9 saw Lucy cross the border into bonnie Scotland after a wee 70 miles of cycling from Kendal. She's now covered over 500 miles and is still going strong!

Before we kick on with more food-related news, it's time to say some thank you's to those who made Lucy's adventure possible on two wheels.

BikeRight! helped Lucy with her bike and the route plans for the cycle. They're a thriving cycle training company based in Manchester. Every year they train around 20,000 people to cycle in variety of environments. They are also currently offering free adult training sessions (worth £60) which aim to help people to get on the road and deal with traffic. If you're thinking of cycling to work but are worried about dealing with busy roads, look no further! BikeRight! also run sessions in Merseyside and Newcastle Upon Tyne.

Simply Cycling is a Manchester charity and cycling club which aims to make cycling an accessible and enjoyable activity for those with disabilities. They have over 170 specially-adapted bikes - the most extensive fleet in the country. They were the first club with a focus on cyclists with disabilities to gain British Cycling's Go-Ride accreditation and have received a Community MBE from The Queen in recognition of their good work.

Team Glow is a Mancester-based cycling network for women offering weekly graded rides and charitable cycling tours. Cyclists from Team Glow make up Lucy's other team members on the LEJOG trip and they are raising money for Simply Cycling! You can support them here.

Thanks very much guys!

Please continue to support Lucy and FareShare North West by donating here. There are also long-term PR packages available to corporate sponsors, so get in touch with Lucy at

Monday, 9 July 2012

Lucy's Big Ride, Day VIII

Like any good Sunday, Day 8 saw Lucy take a day of rest in Kendal in glorious weather. She definitely deserves it, and what better place to relax than the Lake District!

Here's Lucy on the left (not sure if that's a grimace of effort or a smile...)

While Lucy takes some time to chill out, let's take some time to revisit why Lucy went on her cycle in the first place. FareShare North West bucks the trend of our wasteful society by redistributing food rejected by the food industry to those in need of a good meal. So far FareShare NW has provided over 2 million meals to 60 local organisations, supporting around 2000 people.

Charitable food redistribution is becoming more and more recognised as a vital part of the food waste chain in the UK. The role is summed up perfectly in this article in The Guardian by food waste campaigner Tristram Stuart:

"Food redistribution is one of the best win-win solutions for food waste avoidance. Food companies can often save money by donating food rather than paying the £80 or so per tonne in landfill tax and disposal costs. Charities such as FareShare redistribute industry surpluses to organisations around the country, helping to feed the 5.6 million people in this country who don't have access to a decent diet."

A recent DEFRA meeting incorporating major UK retailers and food charities took place to discuss opportunities to improve the redistribution of surplus food from supermarkets, with FareShare CEO Lindsay Boswell admitting that FareShare's efforts are still being hampered by a lack of food donations. You can read the full article about these talks here.

Please continue to support Lucy and FareShare North West by donating here. There are also long-term PR packages available to corporate sponsors, so get in touch with Lucy at

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Lucy's Big Ride, Day VII

Yesterday Lucy cycled a ridiculous 81 miles, meaning she's now over half way there! Day 7 saw Lucy cycle from Warrington to Kendal, passing Manchester along the way. Both Lucy and EMERGE are proud to call Manchester their home. It's a city with a wonderful history of innovation and leadership during the Industrial Revolution and is surely set to be one of the UK's leading 'green lights' (works on two levels, brownie points for me!) in the future.

Manchester is a hotbed of all sorts of green events and groups, and a particularly good one is coming up in the very near future. Envirolution is a Manchester-based community cooperative which aims to "create a catalyst for environmental and social change". Their free annual event will take place on 21st July at Platt Fields Park in Manchester, and it's a must for all you Manchester-based readers! Have a look at their video from last year's event:

This year there'll be stalls from lots of different organisations, including Greenpeace UK, Feeding Manchester and Stitched Up. And of course, EMERGE will be there too! It's free to attend and will be great fun, so we hope to see you there!

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Lucy's Big Ride, Day VI

Yesterday Lucy rode nearly 80 miles from Shrewsbury to Warrington, the biggest day so far! Oh, how your legs must hurt Lucy! She looks pretty happy here though, doesn't she?

Anyway, we've spoken a lot about farms in the last few posts and it seems fitting to mention what could potentially be a major change for the UK farming industry in the near future: Super Farms. Now I know that sounds really cool and of course your mind is already filling with images of caped dairy cows and vegetables that bring about world peace, but in reality super farms are quite different. 

The UK farming industry is in a spot of bother because, in case you haven't noticed, we now have over 60 million people living on our small island, with less and less space left to farm on. To keep food prices stable and levels of production in line with our population, National Farmers Union president Peter Kendall recently stated we need to move away from traditional animal farming and into super massive animal farming. The average cattle farm in the UK has between 100 and 150 cattle, whereas in the US - where super farms are commonplace - thousands of cattle can be found on a single farm. It would definitely help drive food prices down... but is it right?

There's a whole host of environmental issues to consider. Having thousands of animals together in one area causes huge water and land pollution problems, how would local ecosystems cope? What happens to the small-hold local farmer? Is that job going out the window? And what about animal welfare? Being pressed into a small place with thousands of others is no way to live, be you human, cow or pig. What do you think?

Friday, 6 July 2012

Lucy's Big Ride, Day V

Lucy is now a third of the way into her epic cycle across Britain, having pumped her legs up and down 300 miles of the beautiful South West region.

On Day 4 Lucy cycled past Bristol, often regarded as one of the UK's greenest cities, and one particular event that took place there last month is worthy of a mention.

In May, FareShare South West and friends helped host a terrific 'Feeding The 5000' event. Using perfectly edible fresh food that would otherwise be wastefully thrown away, they managed to provide 4,187 people with a delicious free lunch in just 4 hours! Hundreds of volunteers - including celebrity chefs like Tom Herbert from the Fabulous Baker Brothers - worked together to show that veggies rejected for being wonky or too small taste just as good as the ones seen fit to grace our supermarket shelves. Yes, you did read that correctly: many vegetables are wasted because they are too wonky. Seriously.

The event was a huge success. Turns out you don't have to be The Messiah to make food out of nothing!

You can learn more about the whole event here. FareShare North West are also currently planning to host a Feeding the 5000 event in Manchester in September; so watch this space Mancunians!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Lucy's Big Ride, Day IV

Today Lucy cycled 65 miles through Somerset to Gloucestershire and has now clocked up a whopping 240 miles in just 4 days! She's been through some fantastic countryside along the way, passing farm after farm - a fitting route to raise money for a food-related cause. Lucy even saw a sign advertising pig racing! It's almost like a different world out there - here we were thinking pigs were reared purely to feed us and it turns out they also make great athletes.

This piglet is quite literally bringing home the bacon. (picture courtesy of

It's all too easy to become out of touch with 'the real world' of food beyond the confines of a modern city like Manchester. Nowadays you can go into the local supermarket and pick up a bag of potatoes without giving any thought to where they came from, how they got there or how you even grow a potato in the first place. Another thing that always amazes me is that there are city slickers out there (we all know one or two) who love meat but go pale at the thought of animals being slaughtered for said meat.

It's far too easy to be ignorant of the story behind your food and it's a dangerous thing to take for granted. Next time you're in the supermarket buying some sausages, take a moment to think about where they came from. And how many racing medals the donor won.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Lucy's Big Ride, Day III

Today Lucy cycled from beautiful Devon to luverrrly Somerrrset.

As well as the charming country bumpkin accents and delicious cider, the South West is well known for its farming, with food production playing a vital role in the local economy. Lucy herself actually has family connections in the industry at Charlton Musgrove. For 300 years or so the Kimbers have called the lush pastures of Blackmore Vale their home. One of the products they sell is 'Welfare Friendly Veal'.

Blackmore Vale, courtesy of Marilyn Peddle

This, like the fishy goings on we mentioned yesterday, is quite a contentious issue in the food waste arena. Many people are still blissfully unaware (myself included until recently!) that male dairy calves are often shot at birth in the UK due to being unwanted; with the female calves being kept and raised as milking cows. As well as being very inhumane, this is a big environmental issue. A large amount of resources go towards the growing of the calves, only for everything to be wasted at birth. The Kimbers are part of a gradually growing network of farms that rear male calves humanely and slaughter them for rose veal, i.e. making good use of good food.

To learn more about this topic, have a gander here. The Kimbers also have an online shop, so take a peek!

PS- Due to technical issues, we're still without a photo of Lucy on her journey... but watch this space!

Lucy's Big Ride, Day II

Morning all! Were you tired and achey yesterday after a long day at the office? Have sympathy for Lucy, who, only the second day into her 15 day cycle for FareShare North West, yesterday completed one of the longest legs of the trip - talk about a baptism of fire! Over the beautiful Cornwall and Devon countryside she went, covering a whopping 70 miles and climbing a full 6000 feet! Unfortunately, with her along the way was the Great British Summer weather... lashing rain from start to finish. Typical.

As Lucy passes through Devon, we should take some time out to mention a recent major food waste win that has some of its roots sown in the rich Devonshire turf. A couple of weeks ago Europe decided to stop the fishing industry's terribly wasteful practice of killing and then discarding more than one million perfectly edible fish at sea every year just to meet EU quotas and maximise profits. With more and more mouths to feed and various fish species swimming closer and closer to extinction, this is a vital environmental victory; not least for Devon-based TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, whose Fish Fight campaign provided - and still provides - much of the necessary PR pressure.

PS. We'll have some action shots of Lucy on her bike for you tomorrow!

Sunday, 1 July 2012

And She's Off!

This year's Summer is set to be a great season for sport. Wimbledon is now in full flow, London is making its final adjustments for next month's Olympics and just this evening Spain have won another jewell in their glittering football crown.

But we’ve missed someone out in that list. A true hero from our very own Manchester has just entered the 2012 sporting arena. Lucy Danger has today set off on her epic 900 mile cycle - from Land’s End in Cornwall to John  O’Groats in the far reaches of Scotland - in aid of FareShare Manchester.

Having beaten off a cold with a pointy stick just last week, a determined Lucy today pushed off with lovely weather greeting her in Cornwall. Over the next 14 days we’ll be giving you a daily update of Lucy’s whereabouts, energy levels and thoughts. We’ll also be giving you a few local environmental stories from the regions she passes through.

You can support Lucy here. Every penny goes towards moving good food away from the rubbish bin and into hungry mouths. A very worthwhile cause!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Lucy's Big Ride for FareShare North West

EMERGE Recycling

FareShare North West is a surplus food redistribution service run by EMERGE Food, an initiative of the EMERGE 3Rs charity. Our aim is to combat waste and food poverty through both the FareShare project and education of cookery and food awareness.
FareShare Facts
  • Since FareShare NW was set up in 2008, nearly 1000 tonnes of fit-for-purpose food from the food industry has been diverted from landfill and redistributed to 60 community organisations and charities across Greater Manchester and the North West region. 
  • Enough food is diverted every day to feed 320 people. In 2011 this equated to 350,000 meals for those most in need: homeless shelters; refugee support centres; school breakfast clubs; day centres for the elderly; and projects for young people. 
  • The organisations benefiting from FareShare NW can use the significant funds saved to reinvest in the provision of other vital services for the people they support.
  • Over 100 volunteers have been able to make the most of work experience and training opportunities. Many are clients of the organisations we supply and have experienced long term unemployment or lack formal qualifications.
  • We have run public cookery demonstrations across Greater Manchester to promote healthy eating with a strong focus on reducing food waste, as part of the Love Food Hate Waste campaign. 
  • Since December 2011 we have been accepting donations of fresh produce previously being composted by New Smithfield wholesale market traders, adding another strand to FareShare’s web. To date, 7.5 tonnes of fresh, avoidable food waste has been redistributed. This is equivalent almost 100,000 5-a-day portions being made available to those in food poverty.
What Now?
  • FareShare NW plays a vital role helping those in food poverty in Greater Manchester, but it doesn’t come without a cost. Every year we have to raise around £50,000 to run the operation through fundraising and donations in addition to the money we raise from membership fees. 
  • This year, EMERGE’s Chief Executive Lucy Danger is making a direct personal contribution to our efforts by undertaking a grueling sponsored bike ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats. That’s nearly 1000 miles!

courtesy of the contemporary caveman
You can learn more and support Lucy by donating here. She’s also looking for corporate sponsors who will benefit from an attractive PR package (contact Lucy directly at to discuss this opportunity). You’ll be able to read about her gruelling journey here on EMERGE’s own blog.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Tony Lloyd MP says supermarkets should give waste to charities

Here's a piece of interesting news we recently came across, Tony Lloyd, a Labour MP for Manchester Central is advocating that supermarkets should give their waste to charities to be seen as 'socially responsible' rather than focus on reducing waste with a purely profit driven focus.

We absolutely agree with Tony Lloyd and would love to see more waste and especially food waste being donated to schemes like our FareShare programme in Manchester. Not only would supermarkets save money on waste disposal, but all of their food would go to those in need across the region.

Surely that is the type of behavior every 'socially responsible' company would like to advocate? We wish Tony the best of luck in his campaign and fully support his suggestions.

Read the full article on MEN here.

EMERGE Recycling