Last week (3 November 2022) I was invited to Hamara Centre by Mathew who is the Regional Director for Yorkshire Humberside and Teeside of Food Cycle a food charity that cooks on site using food that would otherwise go to waste and feeds the community for free.
Mathew says “The best thing about food cycle is that there is not a single criteria, anyone can walk through the door and have a free three course meal and be served like they would at a restaurant.”
I saw many wonderful examples of teamwork and community spirit and was really impressed by the extra warm and welcoming atmosphere the volunteers gave everyone. Even though volunteers give up their evening on a cold night the customer service was better than a paid restaurant service! Mathew says this is the second intention of food cycle – to reduce social isolation and give customers a good experience they won’t forget. It is table service, silver cutlery and you are served by your assigned ‘host’ for the evening. The lovely ambience means lots of people go just to meet someone new or have a chat with a stranger.
Cynthia boasted “The people make it, talking to people, the escapism, I would pay for this meal because the food and service is that good!”
There was one couple who had been married 50 years and came here every week for their date night, other people popped in after work on their way home and others just enjoyed someone serving them something warm and fresh to eat at a table with company and drinks.
Food Cycle are open on a Wednesday 6-8pm at Hamara and Mathew is encouraging more people from Beeston and South Leeds to come and eat a vegetarian, hot, nutritionally balanced meal for free. The day I visited they served for starters leek and potato soup followed by stuffed peppers with pesto rice and asparagus for mains. The desert was homemade hot apple crumble and custard.
The most impressive element of the evening was watching the cooks decide what to make in 30 minutes like Ready, Steady, Cook! There are no cook books or secret ingredients behind the counter; the volunteers literally have to decide on the spot what to cook after the surplus ingredients have been delivered. No time is wasted and everyone has to use their imagination, creativity and past cooking experiences to come up with something in less than an hour. I was amazed by their can-do attitude!
Jade, who was in charge, created a fantastic culinary atmosphere in the kitchen even though she is a banker by day! It was crystal clear to see that the happy kitchen atmosphere descended into the dining room experience that Mathew and the team of volunteers work so hard to create.
All the ingredients were fresh and in date and guests even got given boxes of food for the next day and vegatables and extras to take home.
If you are a small business or individual who would like to donate or work with this amazing charity then please contact Mathew on 07485 325810 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you fancy a free hot meal and the chance to meet new people call in to the Hamara Centre on Tempest Road, LS11 6RD on a Wednesday, 6-8pm.
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