A passion for food and a platform to fight loneliness – FoodCycle Lewisham

Two of the biggest plights thrust into the spotlight during lockdown were isolation and the availability of food. Long before anyone had heard of Covid-19 or understood furlough in it’s modern context, the team at FoodCycle Lewisham were tackling these issues. FoodCycle Lewisham opened in 2016 aiming to serve as many people in the community who are in need of a meal. It is part of the national charity FoodCycle supporting the vulnerable through kitchens, tackling food waste and loneliness in the community. Claire Foster

Simone Riddle, Community Engagement Lead

South East London blog spoke to Community Engagement Lead Simone Riddle to find out how the charity adapted during the pandemic and what they have coming up in September. 

“Every Saturday we would serve a three course meal at lunch time made from surplus food from local supermarkets. On a Saturday morning, we would pick up the food that was past its best before date in the local supermarkets and we would cook the meals at the Lewisham Irish Community Centre in Lewisham” Simone explained.

“The project was founded by Rushey Green Time Bank where volunteers exchange their time and skills with people in the community. We have a team of cooks who create wonderful, healthy, vegetarian meals and we have a front of house, hosting team to talk to guests, have a chat with them and build relationships in the community.

“We had around 50 guests each Saturday from every background you could imagine. We would see families, local councillors, older generations, widows and widowers, people that were homeless or living in supported housing all sitting together, eating, chatting, making friends.”

The project was so successful, they had big plans for their annual St Patrick’s Day celebration, but sadly had to cancel the merriment and then had to shut down the kitchen completely.

“We had to put activity on pause and regroup. We work as a local collective in Lewisham and we knew we had people in need but we also had remodel and think about how we could reopen with Corona Virus devastating our society.”

Simone is passionate about food and using food as a platform to bring people together, but the community that she and her team had created could no longer eat together. The individuals that looked forward to the Saturday lunches and embraced the companionship were now faced with isolation. Demand for food parcels quadrupled and the local Lewisham collective had to share resources to get to everyone in need.

Simone said: “Even though the kitchens were closed, demand was high and very different as everyone was told to stay indoors unless they were a key worker. So we set our sights on a delivery service to continue to keep the project alive and started working with the Oxo Tower. Our volunteers would pick up the food from the renowned restaurant who would cook the food on a Friday and we would take the meals to our regular guests. We also did an outreach programme, calling those who we had phone numbers for. It was then that we realised how far some our diners had been travelling to come to our lunches. We wanted everyone to know that they weren’t forgotten, that we were still here, but a delivery service was unsustainable to reach everyone.”

One of the silver linings of lockdown was demonstrating the value of food, how it is produced and the joy of growing it at home. It also brought together different charities, as resources were scarce but the community spirit was inspiring and the resilience to help each other in extremely hard times was positively rife.

Simone said: “In September, we will start cooking again and reopen as a take away service. We can’t wait to see our regulars, make those human connections and bring our community back together again, even if we can’t all sit down to eat for now, we hope to do so very soon.”

FoodCycle Lewisham re-opened it’s doors on Saturday 12th of September providing a takeaway meal between 2-3pm at Lewisham Irish Community Centre, 2a Davenport Rd, SE6 2AZ.

How to get involved

Register to volunteer with FoodCycle here www.volunteer.foodcycle.org.uk/volunteer-sign-up   and find your local FoodCycle project closest to you.

Look out for volunteering opportunities with FoodCycle Lewisham come mid-Sept: https://www.foodcycle.org.uk/location/lewisham/

 Find other volunteering opportunities in Lewisham at www.lewishamlocal.com

Donate to support FoodCycle Lewisham’s work through localgiving.org/charity/rusheygreen-timebank/

Passionate about food waste? Check out this Oxo Tower recipe created for FoodCycle guests during lockdown, which they’ve since started selling at their brasserie

Vegan ‘Cheese’ Cake with Mango Coulis

Vegan Cheesecake as served in the Oxo Tower Brasserie

Simone added: “When we were asked by south east London blog to share a recipe from our lockdown community kitchen, one special dessert sprung to mind, the vegan cheese cake. This was made for the first time by one of our volunteers during lockdown and was so well received, it now features on the brasserie menu. 100% vegan, a rich source of plant proteins, this is a dish that is great for the mind and soul. The recipe was inspired surplus tofu and mangos from Fare Share, but this recipe would work with any other fruits to make the coulis. Try mushed berries, pears, plums, peaches, apples and the list goes on.

Ingredients for 4-6 portions:

Crumble Base

200g flour

75g vegan butter/baking margarine + 40g to bake

50g sugar

50g brown sugar

Mango coulis

1 mango

Juice and rind of one lime

50g brown sugar (less or more depending on preference)

‘Cheese’ cake mix

600g tofu (drained for 2 hours)

180g sugar

Juice and rind of one lemon

Pinch of salt

60g vegetable oil

20g corn flour


  1. Start by mixing all ingredients for the crumble base in a bowl with a wooden spoon until coarse crumbs form. Then spread out thinly on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Bake for 160C for 30min. Cool and blend when cold.
  2. Prepare the desired baking tin by greasing with vegan butter or margarine. Then mix the blended crumble base with the remaining vegan butter/margarine and spread thinly into the tin.
  3. Mix all ingredients of the ‘cheese’ cake mix in a blender until smooth.
  4. Pour over the thinly spread base and bake at 150C for 25min.
  5. Peel the mango and cut into rough chunks, prepare the lime.
  6. Caramelize the sugar. Add a thin layer of sugar into a small pot at medium heat just so that the bottom is covered. Give it a few seconds and it will start to become liquid. Then add a bit more sugar until all sugar has caramelised.
  7. Add the chopped mango and lime juice, stir and bring to simmer.
  8. Cook for 15min, add the lime rind, blend and add more sugar if needed.

If you like it more savoury, try adding some chilli flakes or ginger while cooking. Cool before serving with the cake.

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