The Real Junk Food Project is a concept that started in Leeds, and is now popping up all over the UK. The project intercepts food that would otherwise go to waste from supermarkets, restaurants and a number of other sources, and turns it into healthy, nutritious meals for anyone and everyone, with a focus on those in need on a pay-as-you-feel basis.
So let’s break that down;
Food that would otherwise go to waste – It is estimated that around one third of all the food that we produce gets wasted. Some of it is rejected for cosmetic reasons (i.e. never even makes it off the farm), some sits on supermarkets shelves and is then thrown away when it goes past its ‘best before’ date (even if it’s still fine to eat), and some is processed by restaurants or other food companies and never gets eaten. So rather than being eaten, all of this food ends up in landfill, or going to animal feed or to compost. While animal feed and compost are better than landfill, we still think if you call a product food, it should at least have a chance to be eaten by humans. An estimated 15 million tonnes of food is wasted in Britain alone from the plough to the plate. (statistics from “Waste” by Tristram Stuart), and it is estimated that 1.3 billion tonnes of food is lost or wasted each year globally (UN Food & Agriculture Report 2011)
Healthy nutritious meals – For those who can afford it, going out to eat is a treat, and because of this, from Michelin star restaurants to drive thru burger joints, eating out doesn’t tend to be healthy. This is another reason The Real Junk Food Project is different. Because some of the customers that we feed may only get one meal a day, we try very hard to make sure that it’s filling, tasty and as nutritiously balanced as it can be. A recent report by the Royal College of Physicians stated that, “In the UK, the poorer people are, the worse their diet, and the more diet-related diseases they suffer from”. This is very true of those living on the street, who have incredibly limited choices around food.
Those in need – The Real Junk Food Project restaurant is open to the public, and we welcome anyone to come and eat with us… we’ve got a lot of waste food to use up after all. However, we do make a special effort to ensure that those on very limited or no income know that we’re here, and that they are welcome to come and eat with us.
Pay-as-you-feel concept – At The Real Junk Food Project we do not sell any food. We offer all of our meals fon a pay-as-you-feel basis. How people choose to support the project is up to them. If customers can afford to eat out, we ask them to consider what they think is a fair price for the meal they have enjoyed, and leave us that amount. But we equally value people offering their time, skills and energy to support the project, with some offering to wash the pots, clean the windows, or help us to create artwork to spruce up the restaurant. More than just providing free meals to those in need, we have found that the pay-as-you-feel concept creates a sense of community, and a relationship between the people who run, use, and volunteer in the project, that just doesn’t happen in the money economy. The pay-as-you-feel concept is an essential part of the project, and is as important to us as reducing food waste.
Meet the team
Corin Bell – Director
Corin has worked in sustainability, with a focus on sustainable food and food waste, for a number of years. She started as a Project Manager for Environmental Strategy at Manchester City Council, and moved to freelance work at the start of 2011. She is a campaigner for Manchester Friends of the Earth, a Co-ordinator for the UK Gleaning Network, and a volunteer at FareShare North West. Corin is passionate about changing our broken food system, and social justice.
Chris Haydon – Director
Chris supports the Real Junk Food Project Manchester, on a part-time basis. In his working life he’s a researcher with twenty years’ experience across advertising, brand strategy, product development and consumer behaviour. For us he’s here to help plan, organise and manage bits of the project – whether that’s getting the gas meter fixed or driving commercial brand extensions. Secretly he’s around in case we ever hit the motherlode, a tonne of Brussel sprouts that need eating NOW – for which he would manfully contribute.
He’s an adopted-Mancunian who sees his place in this world as being to ‘get things done’. If he’s not at work or with us on the project he’ll be allotmenteering somewhere, probably with a hammer and nails. Or he’ll be sharing his boundless optimism at City.
Stephanie Lynch – Director & Volunteer Coordinator
Steph’s love for nature led her to a career in the green sector in 2012 were she became a Campaign Lead for the Bee Cause campaign at Manchester Friends of the Earth. This involved educating community groups, schools, businesses and politicians about the importance of biodiversity. Her experience managing volunteers as a Mental Health Recovery Worker at Rethink Mental Illness gave her the opportunity to work for Action for Sustainable Living where she recruited and trained over 100 volunteers, and ran numerous workshops and events. Steph currently works with Manchester: A Certain Future (the city’s climate change agency), and Grow Wild’s England Flagship Project, ‘A Tale of Two Cities’. Steph’s expertise lie in community engagement, project development and event management.