Meet the Food Saver Champions who fought food waste head on...

In May 2016, we welcomed a team of 8 Food Saver Champions to the Change Agents network! They were recruited to work on the ‘Waste less, Save more’ initiative, working in conjunction with South Derbyshire District Council and Sainsbury’s.

This pioneering project focussed on a town called Swadlincote. The town had secured £1million investment from Sainsbury’s after a rigorous and closely fought bidding process to be the very first ‘Discovery Community’ to try and combat food waste in the UK.

Part of the £1million was put towards the team of Food Saver Champions who were set to be the face of ‘Waste less, Save more’, working first hand with the Swadlincote community to try and help them reach the ambitious 50% reduction in food waste target.

The team was made up of a variety of professionals interested in food and sustainability, with each member bringing something a little different to the mix.

Key Responsibilities

Where to start! This project was the first of its kind and so to a certain extent, we were writing our own script.

We began and finished the project going door to door, speaking to the community and conducted surveys in an attempt to gauge how much impact we had made and what levels of food were being wasted & why.

In addition to this, we worked with community groups (Youth Groups, Guides & even the local Football Club!), where we conducted fun and informative workshops to really get people thinking about the food they waste and why it is an issue.

We also worked with local Secondary Schools to conduct an art project with a food waste theme. Most of our time was spent promoting the project and attending local events with our bright orange van, Gina! This vintage catering vehicle meant we were able to perform cooking demonstrations to show people how to use up their leftovers and give the public inspiration and recipes that will help them make the most of the food they buy. We also tackled the issue of food waste right from the very start of the process and helped families plan their food shopping and meals for the week so that they could avoid having food surplus and became savvy with their food purchasing decisions.

Opportunity Benefits

For many of us, this was the first role we had secured which aligned with our long term career ambitions. Therefore, Change Agents provided invaluable help to draw on skills acquired from previous work and academic experience to help make us as effective as possible within our role as Food Saver Champs.

We were working in a team of 8 very passionate individuals and the unpredictable nature of the role meant the job could get quite stressful at times. This was where the one to one support calls from Change Agents really helped many of the team overcome certain issues and learn how to work together as effectively as possible.

From the initial training during our induction week to frequent catch-up calls, Change Agents UK have helped to develop the team in fostering healthy working relationships, a deeper understanding of sustainability, the communication of related messages and many other useful skills. The Academy has been a fantastic addition to our personal and collective development, enhancing existing skills and developing new ones.

The Change Agents UK team are really personable and skilled in what they do.

The Results

This project achieved many different successes. What with being a pioneering project, there were bound to be things that didn’t work. This was expected as this was to ultimately help future communities so that we stumble over the blocks for them and save time in the long run. For example, certain areas of the community were harder to tap in to than others; the older generation in particular. It took many attempts to find a suitable medium to communicate successfully with this audience.

We discovered behaviour change within the realms of food waste was particularly difficult to tackle. It is a very personal subject matter and it takes a lot of work to get the public to make those changes. This project therefore saw success in a variety of smaller, more individual ways. Our ‘Food Saver Superhero’ project aimed to get children to perform food saving actions with one or both of their parents. This was a really effective way to get families to work together to re-think meal times to make sure they make the most of what they have. One family in particular went from eating separate, ready-made meals to cooking meals from scratch and sitting down at the table to eat as a family unit. They worked out that they saved on average £10 a week on their weekly shop as a result.

What’s next?

As a result of the success in South Derbyshire, Sainsbury’s are now creating new ‘Discovery Communities’ across the UK to share what has been learned in Swadlincote. More than 110 towns and cities across the UK, from Dundee to Truro, have signed up to be part of the food waste fight!

To find out more about ‘Waste less, Save more’ visit: https://wastelesssavemore.sainsburys.co.uk/