24 February, 2016
With the recent success of food waste initiatives, such as the launch of Toast Ale and supermarket Wonky Veg and A Little Less Than Perfect schemes, it’s clear that we are beginning to realise the importance of our nation’s food waste problem. It’s great that we are taking steps in the right direction, and at Ben & Jerry’s we wanted to get involved in the action too. Last week saw our annual European conference in Paris, and we saw no better way to spend our Thursday afternoon than helping out at Freegan Pony, an awesome Parisian restaurant with a twist….
What is Freegan Pony?
The concept began two years ago in a small Paris flat, after two friends, Alladin and Morgane, were shocked at just how much fresh produce they found discarded in a supermarket bin. This discovery lead them to start Freegan Pony, a vegetarian restaurant whose ingredients are sourced from the vast amount of perfectly edible fruit and vegetables supermarkets throw away each and every day. What was once a tiny in-home set up, has now grown into a full blown restaurant, located in an unused space under the Boulevard Peripherique. Operating on a first come first served basis (once the food is gone, it’s gone!), the restaurant serves a three course meal to around 16 diners a night. The diners pay what they believe the meal is worth – the restaurant is a non-for-profit organisation and all staff (with the exception of the two chefs) volunteer.
Getting Stuck In…
After listening to an inspiring talk from the volunteers, we formed small groups and got chopping! It’s easy to throw away food once it’s passed its sell by date, however (with the exception of meat and poultry), fresh produce can last for much longer! Using just one day’s worth of binned supermarket goods, we managed to cook up two large jars of preserved tomatoes, pickled aubergines, a delicious toasted granola and the starter for the night’s meal – a rather fancy chicory, orange and chickpea salad!
On the night we visited the restaurant, our fellow diners weren’t just any old guests… A couple of times a week, Freegan Pony provides homeless refugees with a free meal and a warm place to sleep and socialise. For the many thousands of refugees fleeing conflict oversees, there is very little safety net whilst they wait to learn if they have permission to stay in France... most sleep rough on the streets of Paris and survive on hand outs from charities for food and clothes.
The refugees have been visiting Freegan Pony for a few months now, and haven’t only been eating, but cooking too! Having spoken to Mustafa, from Afghanistan, we found out that the group much preferred to cook their own meals – not only did the food remind them of home, but cooking was also a pastime they missed. Our evening ended with a shared meal – a delicious tomato and bean curry with potatoes.
It was an eye opening day for us all, and chatting to the refugees was a humbling experience. Each of us came away appreciating just how wasteful our society can be when it comes to food, and just how important it is not to take the produce we buy for granted. It was also a stark reminder of the struggles that refugee men and women across Europe are currently facing in order to find a peaceful place to call home. To learn more about how you can support refugees in the UK, check out the work of the Refugee Council. We can also all do our own bit to help stop the food waste epidemic – if you’re stuck for ideas, check out these smart suggestions from Love Food Hate Waste. Freegan Pony, we salute you!