Lonely Edinburgh residents bond thanks to new scheme

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Promoted by Zero Waste Scotland

A new project aimed at connecting lonely residents and lowering food waste has resulted in a lifelong friendship for two residents.

There are 60 years between Graham Little and pensioner Agnes Bell, but thanks to a scheme designed to cut down on food waste, they’ve become the very best of chums.

The unlikely pals met through an Edinburgh project which pairs lonely and elderly people with a friendly face, so they can share a meal and have a chat.

And despite a six decade age gap, Graham and pal Agnes – better known as Nan – have gone on to become best friends.

Now, rather than just pop in for a quick visit, Graham often ends up staying for ages, chatting about everything from Agnes’ memories of post-war rationing to asking for her advice on relationship issues.

It’s a special spin-off from Meal Makers, a project designed to help cut down on the city’s food waste mountain by encouraging people to share their meals with a local person who’d benefit from a home cooked meal and a chat.

The hope is that less food will end up in the waste bin and people who would benefit from a little extra help can enjoy a nutritious meal and some vital company.

Graham, 34, decided it was an easy way to give something back to the community. “I’d cook for myself and usually have enough to put a couple of portions in the fridge.

“Now I just put a portion aside for Nan, and pop around with it so she has a home cooked meal and a bit of company. Nan’s delightful company. I’ve brought my friends around to visit her, and if I have had any relationship issues or need advice, she’s been there with her 91 years of experience.”

With Edinburgh households generating enough waste to make 74m meals every year, the idea is helping to chip away at the amount of food that finds its way into the waste bin – something Nan, of Pilrig, says would never have happened in the past.

“It never occurred to us to waste food – we’d make a couple of ounces of butter last for a week. And we grew lots in the garden,” she says. “Food is taken for granted these days.”

According to Zero Waste Scotland, Edinburgh households dump 2000 tonnes of meat, nearly 200,000 slices of bread and more than 8000 eggs every year.

To help stem the tide, Zero Waste Scotland has launched a new recipe book, with ideas and ‘food hacks’ designed to encourage us all to be more mindful in the kitchen.

While families can do their bit at home, Food Sharing Edinburgh aims to divert excess food from businesses like cafes, bakeries and greengrocers, to charities like homeless organisation Streetworks.

“It’s really hard for small businesses which are trying to compete with supermarkets and don’t want customers to come in and find empty shelves,” explains project facilitator Jess Acton, 25. “So they end up with more food than they need.

“Bakers and cafes in particular want fresh stock for the next day, so our volunteers arrive by bike to pick up what’s not needed, and it’s redistributed to our 13 charity partners.”

Among the 150 volunteers is Edinburgh University student Xena Yeh, 28. She said: “I wanted to help people share food, rather than waste it. My grandmother is my foodie inspiration, she is great at making delicious meals out of leftovers, and I wanted to do my bit too.”

To download the What's In Your Kitchen recipe booklet and view videos, go to www.zerowastescotland.org.uk/whatsinyourkitchen

Salmon fish cakes

By Stuart Miller, Meal Makers

Serves: 2 Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

250g leftover mashed potato

2 tbsp of any herbs (parsley, dill and chives work particularly well)

1 tsp mustard

1 lemon with 1 tbsp juice squeezed and 1 tbsp zest grated

1 beaten egg

2 salmon fillets or 1 tin (213g)

1 tbsp heaped plain flour

75g homemade breadcrumbs

3 tbsp sunflower oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

1. Mix the potato, mustard, lemon juice and zest, herbs and seasoning.

2. On a baking sheet, season the salmon with salt and pepper. Grill for 5-6 minutes until just cooked. Allow to cool, remove skin and break into large flakes.

3. Mix the salmon into the potato mixture, taking care not to let the flakes break up too much. Form into four equally sized round patties.

4. Put the flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs into three separate plates. Dip the patties into the flour (dusting off any excess), then dip in the egg, and then the breadcrumb to coat all over.

6. Fry the fish cakes in the sunflower oil over a medium heat for approximately 3 minutes on each side until the breadcrumbs are golden and the fish cakes are cooked through.

7. Serve the fish cakes with a sprinkling of lemon zest. We suggest cooked green beans and cherry tomatoes as a side.

Tip: We’ve used green beans and cherry tomatoes but any fresh or frozen vegetables will make a tasty accompaniment. If you don’t have sunflower oil just use olive or vegetable oil.

FOOD HACK

Don’t chuck away leftover mashed potato. Use it in fish cakes, croquettes, scones, waffles, pancakes, baked potato swirls or gnocchi.