Tackling food waste in Hackney

By Patryk Flissikowski

I always knew there were problems in Hackney, I just didn't do anything about them. To be honest, I think lots of people are like that.

At the start of Envision, we asked people on the street what was wrong with our area. Everyone had something to say, but no one was really doing anything. I don’t think people realise they can.

Food waste was something a lot of people told us about. We wanted to solve it cos it affects everyone. Loads of food gets wasted in Hackney, but there are also people who don’t have enough to eat. And food waste is really bad for the environment too.

We wanted people to see how big a problem it is, and also know what they can do about it. And we thought young people needed to know the most. Like, if we change the next generation, we can change the future!

That’s why we decided to put on an event at our school. We got to present our idea to Councillor Guy Nicholson at Hackney Town Hall. We were all a bit nervous, and then our presentation didn’t work on the computer. Normally I want to give up when things go wrong, but we had to think on our feet and just did it off the top of our heads instead. I’ve always been shy but I think I knew the task had to come first. It was scary, but I did it anyway. That’s when I started to come out of my shell.

The Councillor seemed really impressed. He said he could tell we really cared, and that that made him happy. To be honest, I think he was a bit surprised too. We found that lots of people wanted to get behind us, once we got the word out. That bit was my job. I set up a page about our event on Facebook, posted on blogs, forums, things like that. It was good because we were reaching loads of different people!

It’s funny ‘cos we first started by going up and talking to people in Hackney, but then they started coming up to us. They’d say “thank you for what you’re doing. You’re changing something.” Hearing that made me feel really good.

The event at school was brilliant. We did two workshops. In one of them a chef taught everyone how to make the right amount of food, and also how to make meals from leftovers. We even gave people recipe cards to take home so they could remember all the stuff we’d taught them.

Then the second workshop was from an organisation we’d contacted called Eco Active. They explained the different reasons why food waste is a problem to make sure everyone understood.

Eco Active weren’t the only organisation that got involved. Someone from Hackney Recycling Team saw the Facebook page I did and said he loved what we were doing. He told us he was gonna make sure they were doing everything they could. Then, the Council started providing compost bags to all of Hackney’s residents! We were really excited when that happened.

People said that they’d learnt a lot from us, and the headteacher told us that way less food was being wasted at school. We were so happy to find that out - we realised we’d actually changed how people behave. I think that’s what made me want to start changing other things too.

I then started volunteering for Stop Crime Stop Racism in Hackney. Crime and racism were both things that were mentioned loads when we asked people about issues in the area.  I didn’t want to just ignore two big problems that I knew were there. That’s what I was like before Envision.

I also started volunteering with Our Food Our Life. They’re a community organisation that try and tackle food waste too. It’s a really big problem and I didn’t want to stop helping just cos our Envision project was over.

I love volunteering but I think I was too shy to even try it before. I’m much more confident cos of Envision - I really think it’s something everyone should do. I just wish I could do it all again next year.  

Maybe I’ll have to volunteer for them instead!