We have probably all heard the tropes: ramen, cheese toasties, frozen pizza. The easy foods that concerned family members imagine are all that students eat. But is that really true? Laerke is here with the lowdown on sustainable eating in Edinburgh.
Sure, for some people cooking is a skill not yet honed. I have seen first year students (I have been a first year) struggling to figure out exactly how the grill setting on the oven worked. However, as we graduate from microwave omelette onto bigger meals, Edinburgh serves as a fantastic playground for learning about food. From growing and buying to eating and sharing, there is rich opportunity in this city to learn more about our intricate food systems and the role we can play in them, however small.
SHRUB – Share and Re-use Hub
Initiated by students at the University of Edinburgh, the SHRUB – short for Share and Re-Use Hub – is an amazing co-operative working to combat waste. As the climate crisis is deepening and our society’s single use culture rages on, the SHRUB provides a cosy space for people to come together to not only learn about reusing, but to do it together in our everyday life.
What does this have to do with food? I imagine none of us want to reuse food, and SHRUB isn’t asking us to. However, every single day, tonnes of perfectly good food is being thrown away by supermarkets and cafés. And if you are not the type of person willing to go through bins after dark, the SHRUB is the place to go. Through partnerships with local shops, volunteers gather wasted food and SHRUB sells it by donation (suggested at only £1 a kilo) in their Bread Street shop (yes, an opportune street name). Now that’s a cheap, sustainable dinner.
If you prefer fresh farm-produce, there are lots of ways to access this, too! Scotland may not hold the lushness of Southern Europe, but do not be fooled – there are excellent, organic farms scattered across the central belt and Borders, delivering fresh vegetables straight to your door.
Image from the Creative Exchange on Unsplash
In my flat, we enjoy a vegetable box every week from East Coast Organics, a farm just outside the city. Not only do we share meals together every day, we eat food that we know is supporting the soil and those who grow it. I recommend looking through different options for vegetable boxes and finding one that works for you. Some other lovely farms offering vegetable box schemes are Whitmuir and Phantassie Farms.
For some, the seemingly never-ending supply of chard that the Scottish winter provides can be frustrating. Admittedly, as a chard enthusiast, even I sometimes crave something other than the green, chewy leaves. For more variety of local veg, the farmer’s market is an excellent option. And a very wholesome way to spend a Sunday morning! Found on Castle Terrace, dozens of Scottish farmers, cheese and fish mongers, bakeries, and other artisan food makers sell their goods every Saturday morning. With a friendly atmosphere and terrific view of the Castle, this market is not to be missed.
While the list of places to shop in Edinburgh is long and exciting (for more ideas, check out this local food map from Nourish Scotland), being a part of changing the unsustainable food system that predominates globally is not only something we can do with our wallets. Social change requires a strong network comprised of communities on the ground – food growers, food distributors, and, yes, food eaters. The Edinburgh University society Hearty Squirrel Food Co-op are such a community, right in the heart of the student body. While their weekly stalls are currently on hold, they still hold fun and educational events, as well providing lots of information about the Edinburgh alternative food scene. Take a look at their facebook page for more ideas on how to get involved!
There’s no one way to ‘fix’ the way we grow, sell, and eat our food. It’s complex and riddled with injustice. Yet food is also joyous and celebratory and, for me, has opened the way to meeting an inspiring, welcoming community of food activists and eaters across the city. Perhaps, next time your concerned aunt asks you if you are surviving just on ramen, you can tell her not just about the delicious dishes you’ve been cooking up, but about all the wonderful network of growers and distributors in this city that support you to do so.
Banner photo by Scott Warman on Unsplash.