A month ago, we hosted Project SOUP. In this blog Rosanna, former Comms Officer and Intern, reflects on the experience.

We did it! We secured the surplus vegetables. What an unusual and relieving Winchester Hub highlight of 2021!

After unforeseen petrol shortages, and over a week’s worth of phone calls and supermarket drop-ins, including unexpected offers of compost, we are grateful to have received surplus vegetables from Winchester’s Waitrose and Co-Op (Archers Road) perfect for our Project SOUP.

This is the third time we’ve run this event, and the third time it’s been a success. The weather even brightened up for us, but if this affected our target audience: those crawling in from the rain craving the warmth of a bowl of soup, we’ll never know.

Irrespective of weather, September 29th was International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, and our aim was to not only raise some money to support this year’s projects, but to communicate the message of sustainable food practices to staff and students at the University of Winchester.

In an ideal world, we’d drop into restaurants and businesses at the last minute to collect surplus, but with more and more organisations partnering with charities to donate their food waste to at the end of the day (a good development, of course) it didn’t make our planning easy. Being turned down by a supermarket as they’re already supporting another charity was bittersweet!

Nevertheless, from 2:30pm we had tables set up in the Food Hall, appropriately dressed in orange tablecloths, that hosted a mountain of surplus food including some of Waitrose’s finest bread! The baguettes were quick to be snapped up, as were the strawberries.

Then, with potatoes expertly cut by Woolly Matters coordinator Gina, and the responsibility of celery slicing down to myself, soon an abundance of vegetables were chopped and heating up in the kitchen, with the guidance of chef Piotr who advised us on the best flavours for our two soups: ‘Coriander and Chilli’ and ‘Mixed Vegetable’.

Thank you to everyone who popped by, picked up a loaf during the afternoon, and came down for soup in the evening. The mixed vegetable soup took first place of the two, with the container almost empty by the time we began packing up at 6:30pm.

This was after guest speaker Steve Hallett had advised us on actions we can take to live more sustainably, putting food waste in the context of student life and what the University of Winchester are implementing to meet their strategic aims. There were some shocking facts in that discussion that’s for sure, but also some hopeful plans.

In fact, here are 3 of Steve’s top tips for reducing food waste:

  1. Only buy it if you’re going to eat it
  2. “If you find yourself buying something and binning it, either stop buying it, buy smaller portions, or split some of it with a friend.”
  1. Store it properly
  2. “Fresh food really benefits from being stored in an airtight container like Tupperware or an old (clean) jar. If you’ve bought something and realise you won't have time to eat it before it goes off – freeze it!”
  1. Check your cupboards before buying more
  2. “There’s no point buying more of something that’s going to go off before you’ve used up what you already have.”

Remember, small acts can be worth just as much as large-scale actions. The responsibility to solve a social issue doesn’t fall on you as an individual, as there’s so much that we are out of control of. Reflect on the impacts you have in your local circles and feel proud when you remember you’re one of a community driven to make change. That’s worth an awful lot.

If you’re looking to volunteer for a short-term project, join our ‘Give It a Go’ mailing list to keep updated with our one-off events throughout semester. From arts and crafts with dementia patients to building hedgehog houses, there’s always a way you can support the people (and animals!) around you.

Click on this link to sign up: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdHvYSqs63iR5YkZuT_h0F4ddO9i4F5Ym5m792_QdZ3i4w-fw/viewform?usp=sf_link

Throughout the whole event organisation process of Project SOUP, we had to have resilience and adaptability. A shoutout must be made to Winchester Hub manager Liz for being the dedicated (and only available) driver for vegetable collection. Despite petrol panic, fuel was secured, and incredible effort was made to navigate Southampton roads, park, and negotiate why compost wasn’t quite what we were looking for...

As for me, I am incredibly grateful to have been invited back to work with Winchester Hub as Events and Recruitment Intern, after three years volunteering, the final two as Communications Officer, where I learnt a wealth of transferable skills that I constantly reflect upon today. I cannot describe how valuable my connection to Winchester Hub has been.

We raised an astounding £71 via our online fundraising page (thanks to QR codes!) and cash donation. Given we ran the event on a Wednesday - the notable day for sports and less timetabled campus time - we were impressed with the turn out. Although perhaps next semester we’ll catch people on a Tuesday or Thursday instead.

Big thanks to the Catering Team for hosting us in the Food Hall, and to Catering Operations Manager Dave Morton for supporting the logistics of the day. Watch out for our next Project SOUP instalment next semester!