25 May 2021
25 May 2021
Sussex Surplus is a Flavour pilot and social enterprise from the charity Feedback. They are taking fresh and surplus food in danger of being wasted and transforming it into tasty and healthy long-life products. After setbacks getting started they are now producing and selling their first product; pumpkin soup!
Based in Brighton in the south of England, Sussex Surplus processes surplus food in a community kitchen and works with young people paid the Real Living Wage. As a spin-off from the Sussex Gleaning Network, Sussex Surplus works with local growers and food producers to add value and shelf life to their surplus. Through Feedback’s Gleaning Network we have seen first hand the level of food waste on farms. Each year on UK farms, 5 million tonnes of fresh produce goes to waste.
In the autumn, Sussex Surplus received a large delivery of squash from the Sussex Gleaning Network and have since been busy making pumpkin soup. As per FLAVOUR’s key goal around creating jobs for people facing barriers to work, Sussex Surplus hires young people who are neurodiverse or without formal qualifications. So far three interns have been recruited and trained and two more will be recruited in June.
The production has initially been focused on pumpkin soup as we often are able to glean more pumpkins than we can redistribute. Across two ‘Halloween’ seasons alone, Feedback rescued around 45 tonnes of would-be-wasted pumpkins. Whilst much of this can be donated to partners who support people in food insecurity, the volume of surplus is such that there is more than can be redistributed. Hence the need to extend the shelf life and add value to the otherwise perfectly good food. As the seasons change and other gluts occur, the kitchen will evolve production depending on what ingredients are surplus, however the sourcing will always be regional.
One of the interns at Sussex Surplus is Josh Brown from Whitehawk, who is a young person with autism. Josh was on a horticulture course that was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic and after more than half a year of unemployment, he joined the Sussex Surplus team as a Gleaning and Kitchen Intern working 14 hours per week.
Josh says “I’ve done a lot of working with surplus pumpkins, learning about different flavour profiles that work, the cooking process and pumpkin products. I’ve enjoyed working with friendly and helpful people and it’s upped my confidence and feeling I can do new things, also that making mistakes and getting some things wrong is part of learning. I’d recommend the internship for anyone who has an interest in the circular food economy and re-using surplus food for the community.”
With production scheduled to get underway in January 2021, progress was hampered by an outbreak of covid-19 in the team, as well as delays to the shipping of the autoclave from Spain, which got caught up in the backlog of freight that occurred due to Brexit.
Working cross-border with FLAVOUR partners Vives, who are food technology experts, a soup recipe was developed and tested in a laboratory, and then a production protocol standardised. Learning has also occurred in terms of operating the autoclave purchased from Raypa in Barcelona, a company which provides excellent aftercare and remote support. At a moment when the UK is stepping away from its European neighbours, it feels positive to have on-going, productive and tangible international cooperation across the FLAVOUR partnership and beyond.
Sussex Surplus now have their first product that they are excited to share. The distribution model is that one see’s one third sold commercially, one third sold at cost price to support social projects and one third donated to local food banks. The aim is that everyone in the community will be able to enjoy a soup from ingredients that would have otherwise gone to waste.