Roughly 1.3 billion tons of food goes to waste every year and most of this is fresh produce like fruit and vegetables. Stopping food waste prevents at least 30 times more carbon emissions than composting. Knowing this is what prompted Jenny Dawson to start Rubies in the Rubble, an East London-based initiative that aims to make jams and chutneys with all the produce that goes to waste.
I recently had the opportunity to ask Jenny a few questions. She was brought up in Dumfries in Scotland and grew up with her mum making jams and chutneys to preserve all the excess for the winter months. This prompted her to use the same method to preserve all the fruit and veg discarded in wholesale markets. Through this age-old process of preservation, Jenny is able to save produce from being wasted and provide employment to those in need. As Jenny says:
I soon realized I didn’t just want it to be about discarded things – I wanted to employ people often rejected or with no power or voice in society to make it and through being involved, become empowered and part of the community once again. I wanted a first-class product made by our discards symbolizing beauty and perfection in everything – true rubies in the rubble.
With the help of local kitchens, Rubies in the Rubble started making chutney in 2010 and selling it in farmer’s markets. It grew from there, and now they are based in the New Spitalfields Wholesale Fruit and Veg Market. This market has a surplus of 250 tonnes of fresh produce each week that Jenny can make use of. They have received a planning permission for a new on-site kitchen which will open in the next two weeks. They are regular suppliers in the Borough market, Toms Deli in Notting hill, and 123 Shoreditch, as well as online.
They use a mix of seasonal fruit and vegetables for their chutneys. Currently, they have a range of five chutneys and will get back into jams for the summer again soon. Jenny is in the process of experimenting with sustainable packaging after a recent trip to Copenhagen. She also will soon start experimenting with sugar-free sorbets as well as figuring out what to do with other surplus raw ingredients. In the future, she envisions a solar powered or electric van to carry out her deliveries. But for now, she is content building a business “which represents and symbolises teamwork, justice, happiness, love and a delicious, wholesome product.”
Like she says, “Go on, have a dollop!”