This Halloween, a terrifying 12.8 million pumpkins were predicted to end up in the UK's bins. Here in Oxfordshire, our network members followed the call to #EatYourPumpkin and made the seventh annual Oxfordshire Pumpkin Festival a great success, encouraging people to minimise waste by cooking their pumpkins into tasty treats instead of binning them.
Like many things in 2020, this year’s pumpkin festival looked slightly different. COVID-19 restrictions impacted the usual in-person events, but creative thinking and a great community spirit brought the festival to life in a socially distanced way nevertheless. With a total of 35 events organised by 27 different organisations, community groups and food businesses, the festival exceeded expectations. At least 1,000 pumpkins were rescued and eaten across Oxfordshire. While the number of people attending events in person was of course lower than usual, over 50,000 people were reached with the food waste message on social media.
#PumpkinRescue with surplus pumpkin donations
Several of the pumpkin festival events run by community groups were generously supported by our local Peach Pubs The Fishes and The Bear and Ragged Staff who donated a total of 198 organic pumpkins and 200 portions of soup.
From online cooking demos to community markets and themed menu specials, we want to thank our network for helping us bring together a pumpkin festival like no other. Here are a few of this year's highlights from the festival programme:
Pumpkin Carve & Cook with the Cherwell Collective
The team at Cherwell Collective and Climatarian Kitchen managed to organise a socially distanced Pumpkin Carve and Cook event which reached 87 people, including some who got meal kits sent home because they were isolating. Two giant pumpkins of 37kg were made into soup for the homeless. Watch how it went on the livestream recorded by Replenish Oxfordshire.
Pumpkin painting at Wolvercote Community Market
Wolvercote Community Market ran a pumpkin painting competition for children, which was so successful they had to use an emergency stash of extra pumpkins. The children spent the afternoon in the garden with a selection of colourful paints and made so many imaginative spooky creations that the organizers could not pick a single winner. Instead, all participants were rewarded for their creativity and welcomed to collect a small prize. To make sure all the painted pumpkins were saved from the bin, the group used our pumpkin recipe cards for creative cooking inspiration.
Here are a few photos from the day, courtesy of Wolvercote Community Market's Facebook Page:
Over 60s Lunch Club home delivery
Community contact is more important now than ever, so we want to highlight the fantastic work of our newest GFO network member, the ‘Over 60s Lunch Club’ at Florence Park Community Centre. The club used surplus pumpkins and produce from Oxford Foodbank as well as hyper-locally grown organic produce from Oxford City Farm to cook and deliver a free, healthy lunch to 25 of their members.
Pumpkin themed menu specials
Cafés and restaurants across Oxfordshire put on pumpkin themed menu specials, giving customers an opportunity to learn more about the variety of great recipes you can create with squash. Flo’s Café in Florence Park made pumpkin risotto, soup, pie and curry, and St Anne’s College made a delicious pumpkin tandoori with a mint yoghurt and sag aloo. Also taking part were Oxford Brookes Café, and The White Hart in Fyfield who were also handing out the popular pumpkin festival recipe cards.
The Waste2Taste team came up with a brilliant idea to combine surplus pumpkins with providing healthy and free kid’s half-term meal. This was in response to the government's decision to not extend free school meals over the holidays, which was announced just before pumpkin festival. We cannot think of a better use for surplus pumpkins than ensuring 50 local children had access to a healthy meal they could take home and re-heat.
Farm tour at Tolhurst Organic
For this Pumpkin Festival, Tolhurst Organic opened their doors (well not really, because the tour was all outdoors and socially distanced of course!) and offered an inside view of a stockfree organic vegetable farm. A small group of GFO team members and other visitors had the opportunity to learn from an experienced grower, and then buy squashes and pumpkins from Lin’s Veg Shed afterwards. Read up on what we learned on the tour in detail on our blog.
Online cookery classes showcased versatility of pumpkins & squashes
Local chefs and community cooks showed the true versatility of pumpkin and squash with a range of creative online cooking demos. From the (socially distant) comfort of the home kitchen, the chefs showed squash has the flexibility to transform into a delicious pumpkin soup, hummus, Thai curry, black bean chilli or even pumpkin muffins. As one of the most versatile veg it seems crazy that 54% of all pumpkins carved in 2019 ended up in a landfill! If you are feeling motivated but missed the online demos, do not worry, as we have compiled the classes into a YouTube playlist:
Locally grown pumpkin and squash
To support local farmers and growers, the pumpkin festival programme also encouraged everyone to buy from farmers' markets, farm shops and independent greengrocers when picking their pumpkins and squashes. Apart from supporting local businesses, farmers markets are a great way to meet friends, buy food grown to high environmental standards and avoid plastic wrapping. Local farms including Sandy Lane Farm and Oxford City Farm ran special pumpkin sales, giving people an opportunity to buy locally grown, tasty pumpkins right where they grew.
We are lucky here in Oxfordshire to have such a wide range of local farmers markets, which are a great option for shopping beyond Halloween. You can find a range of local farmers and community markets on our Oxford & Oxfordshire Markets page – which one is closest to you?
And lastly, what with the restrictions on in-person events, the social media campaign calling people to action was more important than ever. Thank you to all those who used the hashtags #EatYourPumpkin and #PumpkinRescue to share your wonderfully spooky creations. Here are a few of our favourites:
Oxfordshire Pumpkin Festival is our annual call to avoid food waste, run by the Good Food Oxford network and supported by Hubbub, Replenish Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire County Council's Waste Team and Oxford Direct Services.
Feeling inspired? Get in touch now to find out how to get involved in next year's Oxfordshire Pumpkin Festival, starting in the spring with distributing seeds and encouraging more people to grow their own pumpkins, squashes and other veg.