MORE than 160 kilograms of produce destined for the bin have been transformed into free food.

Sunny Soups, based in Dunbar’s Bleachingfield Centre, is transforming foods ranging from overripe bananas and outsized marrows to unwanted plums and apples into tasty takeaway pots of winter warmth.

The scheme was set up by social enterprise project The Ridge and collects surplus fruit, vegetables and herbs from local gardens and shops, including The Co-operative, the Crunchy Carrot and The Mart, saving it from being thrown away.

Hannah Ewan, community cooking teacher, said: “Food waste is an issue that constantly hits the headlines, and it seemed daft that there were shops that hate the job of throwing food away, alongside local people who either struggle to eat healthily on a tight budget, or are simply pleased to help tackle food waste while enjoying some free food. This seemed like a simple idea to join the dots. As word is spreading, the [soup] freezer is emptying increasingly quickly.”

Sunny Soups is an extension of the SCVO-funded Plenty Project, an ongoing series of free courses run by The Ridge community interest company that teach life skills, including cooking.

It offers Plenty Project participants the chance to put their new-found skills to use and be part of something positive for the community.

The food is stocked in a freezer bought with money donated from Zero Waste Dunbar (now re-named Miixer); it’s in Dunbar’s Bleachingfield Community Centre and is open to anyone passing by to help themselves for free.

The project aims to pass on basic cooking skills and healthy eating information, as well as help to reduce social isolation in the community.

The Ridge encourages local people to take part in cooking sessions, where they can meet new people, learn new skills and get the chance to eat the fruits of their labour.

Hannah added: “Originally I just thought of Sunny Soups as a food waste solution, but there have been many instances of people relying on the soups to get them through when they can’t afford anything else to eat.

“It was a shock to realise the full extent of Dunbar’s food poverty problem, and that makes this project seem even more worthwhile.”

And she said it was great to be passing on cooking skills at the same time.