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The Edinburgh-based charity, Empty Kitchens Full Hearts, has signed a sponsorship deal with the Club that will run from the beginning of the 2022/23 campaign.

The partnership will see the Empty Kitchens Full Hearts logo feature on the lower back of the new Women’s Team home and away shirts for the start of the 2022/23 season.

As well as being a shirt sponsor, supporters will see EKFH’s logo and branding across social media channels and the charity will have access to player content.

Anneka Torrance, Commercial Sales and Partnerships Executive at Hibernian FC, commented:

“It is a pleasure for Hibernian FC to be teaming up with Empty Kitchens Full Hearts, they represent a hugely important cause in currently testing times. I would encourage anyone to get involved and learn more about what EKFH are doing in their community. We look forward to working closely with this fantastic charity throughout the season and thank them for their involvement with our Women’s Team.”

Since April 2020, Empty Kitchens Full Hearts has been turning surplus and donated food into nutritious meals that are home-delivered to those in need across Edinburgh. Since then, more than 1.5 million meals have been cooked, packed and delivered by an amazing community of volunteers.

Emily Gifford, Fundraising Manager at EKFH, added:

“Empty Kitchens Full Hearts is delighted to be partnering with Hibernian FC Women this season, thanks to a generous benefactor. At such an exciting time for the Club, and women’s football as a whole, we can’t wait to support our local Edinburgh team while they help us to raise awareness of our work, and the scale of food poverty hitting communities across Edinburgh and beyond.”

As the cost of living crisis continues to disproportionately impact the most vulnerable in our local community, the need for Empty Kitchens Full Hearts service is unfortunately only going to continue to rise. For just £1.50 per day EKFH can prepare, pack and deliver lunch, dinner and snacks for one person, and at present more than 6,000 meals are being delivered every week.

People in need of EKFH’s service are often facing multiple, compounding vulnerabilities, including poverty, mental and physical health challenges, unemployment, and social isolation. Of service users taken on since the beginning of June this year, more than 25% are children.

This article was published in the Edinburgh Evening News on March 24th 2022.

An Edinburgh community food organisation which provides thousands of emergency meals a day to all corners of the capital has received official charity status today to the delight of staff and volunteers.

One month shy of the its two year anniversary, Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts became recognised as a charity by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) in what staff described as a “monumental moment”.

The Granton based organisation, setup by chefs in April 2020 as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic, is now made up of roughly 250 staff and volunteers and provides up to 1400 nutritious meals a day to people in need across the city.

Janet Jones, Head of finance and business said: “Becoming a registered charity will open up new funding opportunities which we’re greatly in need of.”

She added: “Although the majority of the food we use is donated, it still costs us around £40,000 each month to operate, and with food and fuel costs steeply rising, we anticipate our costs will greatly increase, along with the demand for our service.”

During the pandemic, Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts (EKFH) severed up over one million nutritious meals made from surplus food and they now edge closer to reaching the 1.5 million milestone.

Janet said: “EKFH truly is a community organisation, dreamt up with the goal in mind of feeding hungry people while making use of literal tonnes of food which would otherwise go to waste.”

“To say it’s a monumental moment for the organisation would be an understatement.”

Volunteer, Una Phelan, who has worked with EKFH since May 2020 described the news as “incredible” and said that providing nearly 1.5 million meals was a “fantastic feeling.”

Una said: “So many amazing people have helped to shape Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts into what it is today."

She added: “To have had such a positive impact on so many people’s lives is a wonderful achievement for all the volunteers here.

Una also acknowledged the, “hundreds (if not thousands) of volunteers who’ve made the charity what it is today”, adding, “there are countless Edinburgh businesses who have been part of our journey to get us to where we are today.”

Prior to achieving charitable status, EKFH had operated as a Community Interest Company, originally making meals from food donations at Bridgend Farmhouse, then setting up shop at The Old Dr Bell’s Baths, Leith Theatre, before moving to Granton in December last year.

Though the venue has changed several times, the charity’s mission has always been consistent.

Janet said: “One of the things that came out of the pandemic was that massive outpouring of people wanting to help other people.

“I think that Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts harvested all of that energy and brought together a massive group of volunteers from all sorts of backgrounds and levels of experience with a common purpose and common will to make a bit of good – that will always be our legacy.”

Food is about more than what we eat: our relationship with food and the processes that bring it from farm to plate are deeply connected to our relationship with nature.

You may have heard that the UN's annual climate conference COP26 is in Glasgow in November, but did you know that the UN's conference on biodiversity was held in China between 11th-15th October?

Biodiversity - the variety of species on Earth - not only ensures healthy ecosystems, but allows for the development of medicines, reduces the occurrence of infectious diseases and underpins food security.

We talk about 'food insecurity' a lot here at Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts, so a definition might be useful: "food insecurity is the inability to consistently afford, access and utilise the food needed to maintain good health and wellbeing".

So, what links biodiversity and food security? And why does it matter?

It is estimated that about 100,000 species of insects, as well as birds and mammals, pollinate more than two-thirds of food plants and are responsible for 35 percent of the world’s crop production.

Yet worldwide biodiversity is in 'crisis' due to unprecedented rates of destruction: up to 1 million species are threatened with extinction, while current rates of global species extinction are between 1,000-10,000 times higher than the 'normal' background rate. This mass extinction is also being accelerated by current industrial practices that sit at the heart of our globalised food chains.

Industrialised agriculture contributes to around 30% of total greenhouse gas emissions globally, and the rise of monocultures - growing only one crop in an area instead of variety - to meet rising demand for certain crops, has led to greater food insecurity as single varieties of a fruit or vegetable can be wiped out by a single pest or fungus.

This increasingly low level of biodiversity in the global agricultural system - both in terms of monocultures and factory farms - is accelerating climate change, which in turn threatens the resilience of our food systems with more extreme weather events, salination in soil and increased rates of flooding.

The UK has an average of only 53% of its biodiversity left, while Scotland itself has lost 25% of its wildlife, considerably lower than the 90% of 'biodiversity intactness' experts consider the 'safe limit' to avoid an "ecological recession".

This means that our domestic food security is at risk: and no more acutely has this been demonstrated than current food shortages across the UK, where the precariousness of our reliance on long transnational supply chains and inability to self-sustain with domestic produce has been laid bare.

As Professor Eduardo Brondizio - former co-chair of the The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services - argues: “A pattern that emerges is one of global interconnectivity … with resource extraction and production often occurring in one part of the world to satisfy the needs of distant consumers in other regions."

There are alternative futures and options available to us, and two concepts with potential to increase resilience and harmony with nature in our food systems - and also central to our mission at EKFH - are food sovereignty and agroecology...but more on those over the next couple of weeks!

So, what's being done for biodiversity in Scotland? And what can we do?

Scotland is making good steps towards tackling nature loss, including:

- Designating 37% of its seas as Protected Areas.

- Restoring over 25,000 hectares of peatland with a further commitment of £250 million to restore 250,000 hectares by 2030

- Giving over 100 schools in disadvantaged areas access to quality greenspace for outdoor learning, which has been shown to have profound benefits for both physical and mental wellbeing.

Yet there is still significant work to be done to lower the main drivers of biodiversity loss in Scotland, and the government acknowledged this in its ‘Post-2020 Statement of Intent’ for biodiversity, with aims to “extend the area protected for nature in Scotland to at least 30% of our land area by 2030” by working closely with stakeholders to create locally-driven projects like Cairngorm Connect. The government is expected to release a report on biodiversity strategy to 2030 and beyond next year.

Beyond pushing local representatives to support biodiversity-enhancing policies like those described above, here are some ways we can all help to achieve this crucial goal in our day-to-day lives:

- Go out and experience some of Scotland's fantastic nature and tell a friend! Experiencing and reconnecting with the natural world really helps to understand just how important it is.

- Buy and grow biodiversity-friendly food: this means buying seasonal and local rather than an overreliance on food from across the world being in the supermarket 365 days a year.

- Make Space for Nature - NatureScot's great 10 point list has plenty of big and small ideas for ways you can help to care for nature in your local areas.

A healthy relationship with food relies on a healthy relationship with nature - why not start rebuilding that relationship today?

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