Want to know more about how the food circular economy works?
This episode, with Lucy Antal of food campaigning charity Feedback Global, explores how circular approaches can create a better food system, reduce waste and increase social value.
Feedback is a campaign group working to regenerate nature by transforming our food system. To do this, they ‘challenge power, catalyse action and empower people to achieve positive change’
Feedback uses circular economy principles to create value from surplus food – using it to feed people, animals and the soil.
Read on for a summary of the podcast and links to the people, organisations and other resources we mention.
You can subscribe to the podcast series on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, TuneIn, or search for “circular economy” in your favourite podcast app. Stay in touch to get free insights and updates, direct to your inbox…
Lucy Antal is the NW project manager for Feedback Global’s Regional Food Economy. In short, she develops new networks of sustainable food projects and promotes a circular economy approach to food surplus – using it to feed people, animals and the soil, with a particular focus on the North. She is currently engaged in creating the social enterprise Alchemic Kitchen.
Lucy is a sustainable food adviser for The Food Domain, a network partnership enabling new relationships to develop between academics, NGOs, communities, businesses and the public sector.
Lucy covers a wide remit of food issues including food growing, waste and surplus, skills and education, enterprise, access and for health. She supports the Alexandra Rose Charity Rose Voucher project in Liverpool and runs the steering group.
In addition, Lucy is a research associate at the University of Liverpool, and a member of the International Commission on the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition. She is an external examiner for food and nutrition students at Liverpool John Moores University, and is involved with several N8 research projects. Lucy is an active participant in the Sustainable Food Cities Network in the UK and co-founder of the Knowledge Quarter Sustainability Network.
Previously, Lucy held the post of Sustainable Food City Coordinator for the Liverpool Food People project. Lucy studied English Literature & History of Art at the University of Leeds, followed by 10 years working in the food industry in London. Later, she relocated home to Liverpool to Liverpool to spend 13 years as Operations Manager & Project Developer for environmental charity National Wildflower Centre. She joined Liverpool Food People in 2014 and founded The Food Domain in 2017.
In her spare time, Lucy enjoys writing and tweeting about food, and making preserves as Grab Your Spoon (follow Lucy on Twitter @GrabYourSpoon). Lucy is based in Liverpool, UK.
Feedback “is a campaign group working to regenerate nature by transforming our food system. To do this we challenge power, catalyse action and empower people to achieve positive change.”
“Food production is the single greatest impact humans have on the environment. From mountains of food waste, to habitat destruction to clear land to grow animal feed for factory farms, to soil depletion leaving future harvests at risk: the food system needs to change.
Founded in 2013, we combine hard-hitting investigative research, mass public participation feasts, and on the ground pilots for a better food system. As a result, we’ve put food issues, in particular, waste, at the very top of the business and policy agendas.”
What we talk about
Exploring the circular economy of food
[00:00] We begin with Feedback Global’s aims and the wide range of projects they are using to regenerate nature by transforming our food systems. Feedback is a campaigning charity involved in investigative research, mass public participation events and pilot projects for better food systems. What’s more, many of Feedback’s projects use circular economy approaches and create social value along the way.
[06:05] Moving on, Lucy tells us about her background and how she came to join Feedback. Most of all, she cares deeply about connecting people, food and our environment. She sees a wide range of benefits including physical and mental health, moving people out of poverty, and creating a sustainable, circular economy for food.
Feedback’s projects – transforming our food systems with the circular economy
[11:41] Next, Lucy tells us about some of Feedback’s campaigns and projects, starting with farm gate waste. You might be shocked to learn that Feedback’s research in the UK found that one-third of food doesn’t make it past the farm gate. Feedback is working on a ‘whole crop purchase’ scheme. This aims to encourage supermarkets and others to buy the fruit, vegetables and other crops that don’t meet the (often very specific) specifications for size, shape, colour and so on. You can read Feedback’s research on its website.
In addition, Feedback is working to pressure supermarkets to improve their labelling, helping people understand more about (for example) how meat and fish are reared. All too often, it’s not clear whether meat and fish are factory farmed, wild, free-range and so on.
[17:03] We discuss the ‘B’ word (Brexit!) and its potential impact on the UK food system. We also share our views on ‘consumer demand’ (or retailer persuasion!) for seasonal crops available throughout the year.
[19:53] Next, Lucy explains how the Gleaning Network is resurrecting old traditions. After a harvest, local people would be encouraged to go through the farmer’s fields, gleaning for spare fruit and vegetables that they could take home. Similarly, gleaning groups these days are a useful response to overproduction and surpluses on farms. Lucy gives us examples of some of the groups helping collect, prepare and share the ‘bounty’ from these communal gleaning events. Want to know more? Find information on the Gleaning Network in the European Union here.
[25:10] Right now, one of Lucy’s major projects is the development of a circular economy social enterprise, Alchemic Kitchen. Feedback says it “is an experimental development space that takes fresh food and surplus edibles in danger of being wasted and transforms them into new products for a wholesale market. We will work with local farmers, growers and food producers; support other social enterprises and cooperatives; and work with communities to develop new skills and employment opportunities.”
For instance, Lucy tells us about some of the brilliant initiatives, such as turning spent (leftover) grains from beer-brewing into granola or grinding it into flour to make bread and crackers. As another example, making coffee drinks uses only 5 per cent of the nutrients in the coffee grounds. Alchemic Kitchen turned the used grounds into flour to make cakes and brownies.
Food circular economy principles and priorities
Most importantly, Feedback uses circular economy principles to guide its approach. This means that the priority for unused food is firstly to find ways to feed humans, the next priority is to feed animals, then to regenerate our soils (eg compost), and finally for anaerobic digestion and other biofuels. Alchemic Kitchen aims to add value to food that would otherwise be discarded and use that added value for social purposes. By teaching cooking and preserving skills to a wide range of community groups, military veterans and others, it will help people have access to delicious, nutritious food that doesn’t cost the earth.
[32:08] Right now, Alchemic Kitchen is setting up a subscription service, posting a couple of jars of whatever has been made that month (preserves, chutneys, passata, kimchi, pickles etc) to subscribers in the UK.
[32:32] Next, we talk about some of Lucy’s new projects, including reviving traditional butchery, smoking and charcuterie techniques to make better use of wild meat, including venison, pheasant and grouse. It follows that helping people learn simple skills and techniques will broaden access to these wild meats. Interestingly, they are lower impact and higher-nutrition compared to industrially-farmed meat sourced through complex supply chains. That’s not all – the project will include looking at the ethics of these different farm-to-form options too.
[35:01] In addition, Feedback is keen to promote the concept of food citizenship. You might wonder what that means… it’s about recognising that we all have roles to play in our food system. It feels as though we’ve lost our perception of the importance and value of food in general.
For example, Lucy relates some of the work she does with local wholesalers, and Jimmy, her local greengrocer. Together they’ve found ways to divert black bananas into delicious cakes, find ways to turn surplus apricots into amazing food and drinks and give cooking demonstrations for children and other groups.
Finally, we wrap up. Lucy tells us how we can find out more about Feedback Global, its campaigns and projects – please see the links below.
Links we mention in the episode:
- Lucy on Twitter @GrabYourSpoon https://twitter.com/GrabYourSpoon
- Lucy on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/lucy-antal-bbb4a88/
- Feedback Global – website https://feedbackglobal.org/, Twitter https://twitter.com/Feedbackorg, Facebook https://www.facebook.com/feedbackorg/ and Instagram https://www.instagram.com/feedbackorg/
- Alchemic Kitchen website https://www.alchemickitchen.org/ and Twitter: https://twitter.com/AlchemicKitchen or Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alchemickitchen.nw/ or Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/alchemic_kitchen/
- The Food Domain https://www.thefooddomain.com/
Want to find out more about the circular economy?
If you’d like to learn more about the circular economy and how it could help your business, why not listen to Episode 1, or read our guide: What is the Circular Economy? To go deeper, you could buy Catherine’s book, A Circular Economy Handbook for Business and Supply Chains, which takes a bottom-up, practical approach, with lots of real examples from around the world, to help you really ‘get’ the circular economy, and come up with ideas to make your own business more competitive, resilient and sustainable.
Please let us know what you think of the podcast – and we’d love it if you could leave us a review on iTunes, or wherever you find your podcasts. Or send us a Tweet: @Rethink _Global.
Thanks to Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow, otherwise known as the brilliant, inventive and generous folk duo, O’Hooley & Tidow for allowing me to use the instrumentals from the live version of Summat’s Brewin’ as music for the podcast. You can find the whole track (inspired by the Copper Family song “Oh Good Ale”) on their album, also called Summat’s Brewin’. Or, follow them on Twitter.