Second year MA student Siegi Dethune blogs about her experience of working with an Oxford-based food cooperative.
“True joy and love can never be contained for they are always meant to be shared” – Sarah D Henthorn
It was April 2019 when Marie and Sandra welcomed me as their first paid staff member in their booming catering enterprise, Waste2Taste. They describe themselves as being fiercely passionate about food and supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged members of the community. Part of their driving vision is to encourage reducing food waste by using surplus food as their main ingredient.
It all started a few years earlier in their domestic kitchens, but as popularity grew, the need arose to move into bigger premises. Alongside expanding their team and moving into a professional kitchen, a community cafe was opened where locals discovered the inventiveness of their colourful surplus-food creations.
The hospitality of generosity
“True hospitality isn’t trying to change people but it offers them space where change can take place.” – Henri Nouwen
The vision to reduce food waste goes hand in hand with their heart-desire to help people in need, so they designed a cooking and well-being course for homeless and vulnerably housed people, where participants learn to cook, make friends and get a qualification.
By creating a welcoming place, and in sharing their joy for good food, Marie and Sandra encourage them to step out, grow in confidence and discover their own hospitality.
Since lockdown all activities came to a sudden halt and Marie and Sandra had to find new ways to serve those in need. Thanks to their links with local organisations and through some funding, a joint initiative – OX4FreeFoodCrew* – was formed. By 7 April, they were cooking free vegetarian meals for homeless, isolated, vulnerable or low-income members of the East Oxford community. Since then, Waste2Taste alone provided more than 1,000 meals.
Marie shares: “When we closed our doors on 17 March, we were in the middle of one of our ‘Cooking for Health and Well-being’ courses. It was sad that the group had to be postponed as they bonded and enjoyed the sessions, but we keep in touch with them through a WhatsApp group and phone calls.
“We have been sending them a bag of ingredients with a recipe. They make the meal and send us photographs of the process and end results. This is proving to be a real hit, great fun and helps to keep morale up in these strange times. So, for now this is our purpose and we are happy to be doing it with love and gratitude.”
Sandra says: “We are, raw, real, passionate for what we do, food lovers dedicated to others and good causes.” So despite lockdown, Waste2Taste continues to nurture this passion not quite knowing what the future will bring, but determined to keep participating in fostering fruitfulness and rekindling dignity in those who otherwise may feel ‘wasted’.
Lockdown poem from Abi
We have met extraordinary people through our Health & Wellbeing workshops. Abinah was just one of them. She is brilliant, very intelligent with an amazing sense of humour and now someone we can call FRIEND.
She sent us this poem. Her way of saying thank you.
I’s home alone – but not on me own, me Friends call me on the bone.
Me hot lunch is delivered – a different eat each day of de week delivered with love and care,
And a supportive word and kind eyes, a nod, a smile – It might be a while – they say this is lockdown.
At times I frown and feel down so I write me a poem or 2 or 3 to lift me soul and mood – to feel as free as I presently can be, even though I’m at home alone.
I know’s I’m not on me own, with my female body, arthritic hands and feet, rheumatoid and orthopaedic pain.
A body disabled I’s clap the best, thanking me God for the NHS, all carers true ‘paid or not’ staff and volunteers.
The Porch serving homeless or vulnerably housed people they delivers me hot food and lifts me soul and mood, and keeps me diabetes on hold – even though I’s on me own I’s not alone, not deserted or ignored, not invisible or faceless, not disempowered, or bored beyond compare.
I miss Waste2Taste, me go-to cafe and their courses – Cooking and Wellbeing about food and hygiene, self-esteem, friendship and community. Morale officer I am there with me diverse colleagues and friends Sandra, Marie, Jessie, Siegi, Dionne, P.J, Jenny, Sefford, Paul and Foodbank couriers.
Folks from Matilda House – all experts by experience – wicked cooks and students too! All here, serving with care all who enter there at the Waste2taste Café in The Ark T, United Reform Church Centre. Then there’s Philippa the visiting photographer of 100 Oxford women fame.
With kindnesses and encouraging words and with de best of the rest of us looking forward to meeting again, don’t know where don’t know when, with joy in our hearts and embracing smiles.
Even though for now we are apart and if we have to wait a while – just try a smiling greeting as we pass each other by at a safe distance, masks and gloves to protect each other – let us keep going with love and hope and thankfulness in our hearts.
Monday 18 May 2020
*OX4FreeFoodCrew are Oxford Together, Ark-T, Waste2Taste, Flo’s, the Place in the Park, and are kindly supported by Oxford Foodbank, Bucksum Farm and Sofea.
 Sarah D Henthorn, “Reconciling Hospitality: Building the Skills of Reconciliation through the Practice of Hospitality”, Seattle Pacific University
 Henri Nouwen, “Reaching out: the three Movements of the Spiritual Life”