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Changing how we think about food

Changing how we think about food

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Co-founded by CAT graduate Chris Woodfield, Aber Food Surplus is a social enterprise on a mission to help their local community to revalue and reconnect with food. Catriona Toms reports.

Aber Food Surplus is a pioneering not-for-profit organisation focused on supporting a thriving and circular local food system in Aberystwyth.

Initially set up in 2017 to tackle food industry waste by collecting and redistributing food that local supermarkets were throwing away, the organisation has grown and expanded in recent years to take a broader systemic approach to transforming local food systems.

Selection of food in a basket
Redistributing food that would otherwise go to waste offers a starting point for conversations about the wider food system.

Redistributing ‘waste’ food

By collecting the food local businesses are throwing away and redistributing it among the community, the project is exposing problems with the food industry.

Volunteers currently collect around 250kg of food from Aberystwyth’s supermarkets each week. Through Food Sharing and Pay As You Feel meals, they bring local people together and show them ‘waste’ food can be tasty and nutritious.

The project is run by the community for the community, operating in a collaborative, creative and constructive way. The goal is to turn Aberystwyth into a zero-food-waste town.

Exploring wider system change

However, the team recognise that collecting and redistributing surplus food doesn’t tackle the root cause of the problem of waste within the food industry, or wider systemic issues within the food system.

An important part of the project is starting conversations. How can we move to a system that doesn’t produce systemic food waste, pollution and loss of biodiversity? What would that look like in Aberystwyth? What benefits could it bring for people’s health, well being and security? How else can we support a circular and thriving food system? What would our community and food system look like if we had more growing spaces, and more people were growing food in sustainable and regenerative ways?

Through these discussions about the food system, and utilising food waste as a way to bring people together, the project aims to inspire people to talk about local issues and how to support Aberystwyth’s people, economy and environment. It encourages and empowers everyone to contribute to making change happen, whether at home, school or work.

Our vision is for Aberystwyth to be a pioneering example of food sustainability. A place where food is grown, distributed and consumed in a fair and environmentally sustainable way. Where people of all ages and backgrounds come together to enjoy tasty and nutritious food. Where food waste is a thing of the past.” Co-founder, Chris Woodfield

'Pay As You Feel' meals bring people together and get them thinking about the value of food
‘Pay As You Feel’ meals bring people together and get them thinking about the value of food

Food sharing hub

With funding from the National Lottery Community Fund, Aber Food Surplus also now runs a community and environmental hub in Aberystwyth. The aim of the space is to be a welcoming, relaxing and inclusive place for anyone to think about and discuss the food system, our connection with food, and wider climate and environmental issues, and to get involved with taking positive action at home and in the community.

From here, a team of volunteers runs a surplus veg box scheme, operates a community fridge, and facilitates community activities. It is also the home of the Bwyd Dyfi Hub, which distributes organic, local, and agroecologically grown produce, helping people eat in-season and support local producers.

The food sharing hub also hosts a seed library, where people can collect and drop off seeds, saving money and, in time, helping make crops more productive and resilient to the local and changing climate.

On top of all of this, Aber Food Surplus also facilitates community food growing in the town to enable people to connect with that aspect of the food system.

Volunteers Johnny and Holly sum up what the project has meant to them:

“The experience of volunteering at Aber Food Surplus has been amazing and rewarding. It has helped us integrate into the Aberystwyth community and feel like we are contributing and learning. It has opened our eyes to environmental issues, and we are now both looking to pursue further study focused on sustainability. Thank you for inspiring us!”

To find out more about Aber Food Surplus or to get in touch with the team, visit

If you are thinking about starting something similar in your community, you’ll also find a range of resources for community groups in our Zero Carbon Britain online resource hub.

About the author

Catriona heads up CAT’s communications and marketing team and is editor of our supporter magazine, Clean Slate. She has a Masters in Food Policy and is currently completing CAT’s Sustainability and Adaptation MSc.

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CAT Graduate Chris Woodfield receives an award

CAT Stories – Aber Food Surplus

Aber Food Surplus was co-founded by CAT graduate Chris Woodfield, and at our recent CAT Graduate symposium he joined a panel group to share advice based on his journey. He shares his inspiring story with us.



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