Southampton Student Running A Half Marathon Fuelled by Food Waste


Jack Dicks, a third year student studying Biology and Marine Biology here at the University of Southampton, will be running the Southampton Half Marathon powered by nothing but Food Waste in the 7 weeks running up to the marathon. Jack will be raising money for Curb (the Southampton branch of Real Junk Food Project), who aim to stop food waste. 
Credit: Nuala McBride
Let’s start at the beginning – why are you doing this challenge? 
Jack: I really wanted to raise awareness; as I’ve seen first hand the sheer volume of food waste that there is in Southampton alone. Something needs to be done as we’re wasting over 1.3 billion tonnes of food that is edible every year and that’s just from production to the supermarket. Tonnes and tonnes of food is rotting in fields; because it doesn’t meet supermarket specifications every year. Not to mention the stuff that is thrown out in people’s homes.
So, what exactly do you mean by ‘food waste’? 
Jack: By ‘food waste’ I mean food that is labelled unfit for human consumption. We intercept food from supermarkets that would otherwise be taken to a landfill site.  In the past two years, Curb has collected 14.5 tonnes of food waste and that’s just the measurements of about 10 people in the group who go out to collect food waste.
How do you collect food waste?
Jack: We go through bins and collect all the waste food; but we do also get donations from supermarkets. Waitrose usually give us food, as well as cafes. The shop ‘Fuzzies’ in Winchester has just shut down and we’ve got a lot of whole food produce from there. I usually go out about 3 times a week and then I weigh everything I get, before distributing it to my friends.
You must be very popular with your friends?
Jack: Yes, I’m very popular with my housemates – on Tuesday night I brought back 73 pancakes and they were very happy about that!
Have you contacted supermarkets to ask for them to give you food?
Jack: We’re constantly in contact with supermarkets; but many are very reluctant to talk to us or give us food. It’s a massive undercover issue that most supermarkets are trying to hide, because it’s an atrocious amount of waste that they get rid of.
Have you approached the university about their food waste? 
Jack: No, I haven’t yet; but that is one of my plans. I plan to see if we can get donations from the cafes and shops on campus and take all their catering left overs. The university is quite good as most of their stuff gets eaten, like if there’s an event on they put the left over sandwiches out for staff and students. But, there’s still room for improvement.
Why is there so much food waste?
Jack: People need to start living by their senses and not sell by dates; as that’s really one of the main issues. We’ve evolved to have senses to tell when food is off – even infants don’t eat sour things as they’ve evolved to not walk around and pick up a toxic millipede. We’ve got these senses to use; but we’re being told how to eat our food – that’s just crazy.
But, there’s also food storage issues. The crisp draw in a fridge hasn’t been redesigned in about 30 years and it’s complexity inefficient as it doesn’t crisp anything. Maybe, redesigning the products that we use to store our food as well could be a really good solution to make our food last longer. There’s lots of room for improvement. It just takes some brain power.  For example, how do you keep a lettuce? Most people keep a lettuce in the fridge, to make it last longer 3-4 weeks, put it in water as it’s a living organism. It’s obvious things like that, that we really need to rethink.
How did you get involved with Curb?
Jack: Two years ago, Louise and Libby who run the Curb came and did a talk at the University. I went over to talk to them afterwards and fell in love with the idea and everything that they stood for. Now I volunteer quite regularly. We run events and cater for groups such as the Women’s Institute who we catered for the other week. All our events are a ‘pay as you feel’ – meaning you pay how much they feel the food on your plate is worth.
How do you think that this challenge will help your charity? 
Jack: Mostly, by raising a lot of awareness. I’ve contacted a lot of newspapers, TV stations, radio station etc; so I’m really hoping to get a few interviews and raise a lot of money!
What will the money you raise help to do?
Jack: My aim is to raise £500. This will help to run a lot of events. We run cafes and things called ‘Boutique Groceries’ where we sell  dry good that we find – all at the ‘pay as you feel’ cost. ‘Pay as you feel’ means that the food is accessible of everyone, no matter how much money you have. The profits from this helps us to be able to afford to hire venues, power the van and things like that.
Have you reached out to the student community for fundraising?
Jack: On the 20th March, I have a night in Jesters where I’m cooking a big Chilli (made from food classified as waste) and I’m going to do pay as you feel. We’ll have our signs up and people can talk to us and hopefully gain some more volunteers.
And finally, have you ever run a half marathon before? 
Jack: Yes, I’m quite a keen runner and have completed a few marathons and half marathons in the past. In Devon there’s a race called Grizzly, which I’ve done twice, where your run 20 miles and 80% of it is uphill.
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Deputy Editor 2016 -2017. I'm a Geography student here at Southampton. Also, an avid adventurer; who is always up for discovering somewhere whether it's new or old.

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