Infinity Foods in Brighton began as a small shop in 1971 and today is primarily a large wholesaler, with a shop in Brighton brimming with an extensive range of vegetarian products – from cupboard essentials to freshly baked bread and seasonal fruit and vegetables. They have been working with the local community and supporting the Phoenix Estate Food Hub and Whitehawk Community Food Project in Brighton over the past year. Both Phoenix Estate and Whitehawk Community have difficulty finding volunteers who have transport suitable for collecting surplus from Infinity Food’s warehouse so the team at Infinity decided to deliver, which gave them a chance to see first-hand what work the charities do. Martin and Rachel from Infinity shared this with us:
‘Phoenix project have storage space and enough volunteers to pack down or decant bulk goods and Whitehawk community garden have 20 or so chickens and a very advanced composting system meaning they can take goods that are not fit for human consumption, so between them we managed to redistribute a large amount of unsaleable food that we sometimes struggle to find a home for.
The first drop off was to the Phoenix project which operates a model which is growing in popularity amongst community groups supporting the increasing numbers of those unable to afford to feed themselves and their families. There’s no means testing, and members of the scheme contribute a small amount each week and receive a parcel containing a range of food.
When we arrived lots of volunteers from the local area were busy putting together the food parcels for the recipients. A typical bag includes: potatoes, onions and a range of other fruit and vegetables; tinned produce; cheese; milk; bread; meat or vegetarian alternatives to meat products; dry goods (e.g. pasta, oats, cereal), coffee, tea, biscuits.
We were dropping off 20 litre tamari sauce with a cracked lid which they will decant into their collection of smaller bottles. We also had 25kg cashews (returned from a customer having been opened), several cases of short dated plant milks, jars of tahini and peanut butter and other goods.
As with the other groups that we have longstanding relationships with, the Phoenix food project steers away from the requirements for referrals from official bodies which can be difficult, humiliating or sometimes impossible to obtain, thereby acting as a deterrent to many in need. Simon, one of the organisers, explained to us how about 50% of their members now consist of the growing numbers of the working poor who cannot afford to meet basic living expenses.
Phoenix project is looking to expand its support services by offering community cookery classes where skills are shared to help people improve their diet and Breakfast clubs for kids who would otherwise go without.
Next up was a drop off to Whitehawk Community Food Project, who had thankfully said ‘yes’ to taking lots of soiled/rejected stock to feed their chickens. (They didn’t have a vehicle big enough to collect the 500kg or so of goods we had to offer).
WCFP has been around a long time but had fallen into a measure of disuse. We sponsored them for a small amount a couple of years ago and the group of volunteers went on to do a fantastic job of reviving community uptake in the garden – there are now around 150 members. The garden itself is spread over an entire acre, and includes vegetable patches , orchards, beehives, herb gardens , a yurt and a summerhouse. The large chicken coop (which we sponsored the build of last year) houses about 20 majestic looking chickens (no wonder as they are largely fed on Infinity oats and seeds from soiled sacks that would otherwise have gone to biofuel).
WCFP provide gardening courses, social days and a respite space for people including those with substance dependencies and mental health struggles. All the food grown is shared with the community. Even on a rainy January morning it’s an amazing space – we asked if Infinity might have a social day out there when the weather is better so we may return!’