• STV
  • MySTV

Tuk In: Tackling food poverty with free meals on wheels

A volunteer tuk tuk group is gifting fresh food to Aberdeen families in need.

Tuk In will provide hot meals and advice in regeneration areas.
Tuk In will provide hot meals and advice in regeneration areas. CFINE

With crates of red peppers, cans of tomatoes and plenty of carrots ready for distribution, the plentiful supply of surplus vegetables is ready to be packaged up into emergency packs for desperate families.

From bananas to sticks of celery, families in food poverty in Aberdeen have a fresh food lifeline in the form of Community Food Initiatives North East (CFINE), a charity which aims to help alleviate food poverty in the north-east.

From running a food bank to offering financial services to those in need, CFINE's latest project is small in size but aims to have a huge impact across the city's regeneration areas - all from a tiny electric tuk tuk.

Tuk In was developed by a group of students as part of the City Lab initiative, where University of Aberdeen and Robert Gordon University students present innovative ways to tackle issues in the city - from paving stones that generate electricity to double decker buses offering educational workshops.

Initially titled FitDish, students presented the idea of an electronic tuk tuk vehicle which could deliver hot meals to Aberdeen communities using food which would otherwise have gone to landfill.

Community: Volunteers will help make meals from food destined for landfill.
Community: Volunteers will help make meals from food destined for landfill. CFINE / cropped

It would also double up as a mobile van to deliver fresh food to companies across the city to help with the running costs of the project.

Presented in a Dragon's Den style pitch to local businesses and charities, CFINE took on the project and decided to bring the students' vision to life by successfully crowdfunding more than £12,000 to purchase an electric tuk tuk in May.

Now the charity aims to get the initiative up and running within two months to help alleviate many of the area's' food poverty issues.

"This is a huge problem in Aberdeen and people might think Aberdeen is a really wealthy city but we've got some people who are really struggling at the moment," explains Sean McVeigh, a development worker for the project.

One of the charity's main enterprises is operating the FareShare Grampian franchise, which distributes fresh, in-date surplus food from supermarkets and food producers which would otherwise have gone to waste, to more than 100 good causes.

Food destined for landfill is distributed through CFINE's food bank.
Food destined for landfill is distributed through CFINE's food bank. CFINE

In the past year, homeless shelters, women's refuges and even its own food bank have received more than 270 tonnes of produce, in turn saving 135 tonnes of carbon emissions.

In a report published by Zero Waste Scotland last year, it was estimated that the retail sector, which covers waste generated from supermarkets, threw away around 31,000 tons of edible food waste in 2013.

A Zero Waste Scotland spokesperson said: "Food waste is a global problem with serious environmental and social implications. The best way to tackle it, is to prevent it, and Zero Waste Scotland's work in this area is focussed around helping people and organisations make the most of food, and ultimately waste less.

"Where food waste cannot be prevented, re-distributing surplus food to people should be the first priority. Zero Waste Scotland is working with the food and drink sector to overcome barriers to re-distribution."

Food which CFINE already has access to would be prepared into healthy, low cost dishes in its community kitchen Cook at the 'Nook by volunteers while those from low income families could use the facility to learn how to make nutritious and low cost meals in a friendly environment.

Volunteers help make food for Tuk In at Cook at the Nook facility.
Volunteers help make food for Tuk In at Cook at the Nook facility. CFINE

Sean says: "A lot of fresh produce comes through there and quite a lot of the time you wonder how we could use this properly so the tuk tuk plays in really well with all that.

"It saves on food waste and by using the produce to create lovely healthy nutritious meals we'd also help to alleviate food poverty in the seven regeneration areas around Aberdeen."

From three bean chilli to curries and veggie burgers, the meals are simple yet nutritious and recipe cards are hoped to be distributed alongside the meals from the tuk tuk.

Sean explains: "For some people it may be the only hot meal they get in a day so we would take that out to the seven regeneration areas and it would either be no cost or low cost."

Fare Share distributes fresh food to more than 100 organisations.
Fare Share distributes fresh food to more than 100 organisations. CFINE

CFINE is operated by numerous volunteers, all of which he says come from many different backgrounds. Some are past users of the charity's food bank, others want to give back to the local community. Out of work chefs assist in the community kitchen and some are searching for ways to boost their CVs.

It is hoped that through sales of the same meals to businesses in the local area and cookery classes held in the 'Nook, CFINE could afford to employ its trained volunteers for the project.

As Sean explains, with CFINE's many approaches to tackling food poverty in Aberdeen, the charity is a real community effort but with the purchase of a new vehicle, even more staff can help families in need in the north-east with all manner of social issues.

The charity offers financial advice and help with budgeting.
The charity offers financial advice and help with budgeting. CFINE

Sean says: "One of the problems we've got is that we don't have quite enough staff to go out and speak to people all the time and identify needs.

"Our financial capabilities team are really busy but they can't always address needs in the community. We are in one part of Aberdeen and it can be quite hard for people to move about so we would introduce that element as well."

The team, which assists with debt issues, money management, and help with benefit sanctions or delays, is a popular service Sean says with the help of the tuk tuk, more people would be able to access help.

"We would try and make appointments or make contact with our financial capability team," he says.

Tackling food poverty in new ways is part of CFINE's message.

While the charity encompasses numerous different projects, it is hoped that through food education, reusing ingredients destined for landfill into healthy meals and access to financial support, could help to ease the pressure on some of the city's most vulnerable.

"We would love to close our food bank tomorrow and hope everybody was fine but unfortunately it's not happening," says Sean.

"We want to try and alleviate the kind of pressure people are feeling through a variety of means and Tuk In will lend itself to this really well.

"It's just another weapon in our armoury to try and address these problems."

Download: The STV News app is Scotland's favourite and is available for iPhone from the App store and for Android from Google Play. Download it today and continue to enjoy STV News wherever you are.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check. That e-mail's already in our system. Please try again.
ShowHide
Forgot password?
This field is required. At least 6 characters please. Did you enter your details correctly?
If you've forgotten your details then use the 'Forgot password?' link.
Need to reset your password?

We'll send a link to reset your password to

We've sent you details on how to reset your password

Please check your email and follow the instructions.

Forgotten your email address?

Have you forgotten the email address that you previously joined with? Don't worry, by emailing enquiries@stv.tv we can help.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
At least 6 characters please
ShowHide
This field is required. At least 6 characters please.
You have to be 16 or over to join
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date
Type your full postcode and select your address This field is required. It doesn't look like you've entered a valid postcode. Can't find your address? Confirm the details you've given us are correct by clicking here

By continuing you agree to our Terms of Use, including our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy. Any issues contact us.

Upload Profile Picture

Please make sure your image is under 2mb in size and a valid JPG, PNG or GIF.

Are you sure?

Unfortunately, you'll be unable to access our premium content. We’ll be sorry to see you go, but if you change your mind you can rejoin us at any time.

Please verify your STV account

Please verify your STV account using the email we sent you. If you have lost the email, we can send you another one, just click the button below.

Thanks

We've sent you a new verification email.
Please check your email and follow the instructions to verify your account.

Welcome to STV
Thanks for joining us.

Oops!

Sorry, you must be at least 12 years old to place a vote for your Real Hero.

Please review our Voting Terms of Use for more information.

Oops!

Sorry! It seems that you are using a browser that is incompatible with our voting service.

To register your vote please copy the below URL in to your regular mobile browser. We recommend Google Chrome, or Safari.

http://shows.stv.tv/real-heroes/voting

Oops!

Sorry, you seem to have already voted in this category.

Thanks for voting

Now share your vote with friends on your social network

Share on twitter Share on facebook

Cast your vote

Please register or sign in to continue.

Cast your vote

This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date

Cast your vote

Please fill out this form to cast your vote. As you are under 16 years old you will not create an STV account. Why do we need these details?

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check.
Location This field is required.
Parental Consent This field is required.

That's you. All that's left is to click the 'Submit Vote' button below. By doing so, you confirm that you and your parent or guardian have read and accept our Voting Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Cookie policy, and that the details you have entered are correct. We'll look after them as carefully as if they were our own.