According to the United Nations, 4.7 million Britons live in “conditions of severe food insecurity”, and a further 5.6% of people aged 15 or over struggle to access enough food each day.
A voluntary organization based in Bristol aims to fight hunger by tackling food inequality – which means taking advantage of food surpluses in companies, where, according to WRAP, food waste is estimated to accumulate up to 3.6 million tons per year.
Sian Kidd founded the Secret Soup Society for this exact reason – in hopes of closing the gap so that all children have access to one of the most important yet basic needs.
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While she currently pursues her work in the field of sustainability and environmentalism, her background in art, particularly puppetry, has long fueled her desire to change the world.
It only took a chance muddy encounter with a group of kids during a play session to finally be swayed into action.
Sian said: “I moved to Bristol from London in the summer of 2019 to start a practical sustainability and permaculture course for six months.
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“When the pandemic hit I first started helping out a food club by a charity called Family Action in partnership with Fareshare South West to help locals get affordable food at their carries.
“That’s when I realized how much food was wasted in the bins and it’s always been something you take for granted.
“Basically I was working at one of the holiday food clubs and doing mud cooking with this group of kids making mud pies and cakes – one of them came over with a pot of muddy water with pieces of “nature”.
“She asked me if I wanted some of her secret soup and all of a sudden I had this weird eureka moment, because this kid just gave me the best idea ever.”
For the child, it was a moment of innocent humor to share; however, according to Sian, it became an incentive to confront the wasted food, as well as a fittingly fitting name for what would be her biggest project to date.
Alongside his partner Jacob, the Secret Soup Society was started by using leftover food collected and donated weekly from local supermarkets and other organizations, to prepare a large amount of soup for the hungry.
Despite the qualifications and work experience that led her to create SSS, Sian said she was always in awe of nature.
Through her use of storytelling as a puppeteer and artist, it was crucial for Sian to create art as a form of expression to raise awareness of climate issues that significantly affect the most vulnerable people.
Sian said, “I don’t like the term ‘food insecurity’ but I prefer ‘food dignity’ because that’s what people deserve.
“At the time, [England footballer] Marcus Rashford was leading his campaign for free school meals and there seems to be this real zeitgeist in the public to understand the need for affordable food and the impact of the pandemic on people to get it.
“I have always been passionate about waste and find it incredibly upsetting how much we waste and Shift Bristol has taught me so much about the true effect of food waste. Even as an artist it has profoundly changed the way I to think and made me realize that the theater and film industry is so wasteful.
“A statistic that I still hold dear is that if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest carbon emitter in the world.
“At a time when it’s so obvious how devastating the impact of climate change is, for me to be able to do one small thing to help prevent food waste just makes sense.”
As Sian continues to lead the Secret Soup Society, she hopes to bring local and national attention to the ongoing crises that will negatively affect new generations.
With each soup, she hopes to take big steps towards a positive future, while even working to revolutionize the entertainment industry by promoting the use of sustainable materials and with the well-being of the planet in mind.
She said: “I think it’s important to show young and future artists that there are many ways to become an artist and to have a clear idea of what materials to work with and how we use them. .
“Essentially we need to have a broader conversation about our global responsibility in the North and food is a big part of that.
“So this year we have exciting plans for Secret Soup – we are developing an after school food waste program as we had a tryout at a local school which was really successful.
“What I see is that children and young people are passionate about it and want to learn. We hope that by starting a program where we can involve these people and engage them from an early age.
“That’s why I tried to integrate what I learned about living in a more sustainable way and being aware of what we have.
“Hopefully our nation and our government have a more robust system in place to be able to help people who need food, and if they ever take more responsibility, we would basically make a difference.”
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