Campaigning against food waste: The Real Junk Food Project

Real Junk Food Project co-ordinator, Ben David Jones, speaks to Bioregion Birmingham.

Hi Ben, tell us about your project...

The Real Junk Food Project is a campaign against food waste. Our primary reason for being is to help end all food waste. One of our favourite slogans is 'Feed bellies not bins'. Here at the Junk Food Project in Birmingham we believe not only in saving food waste but also in saving people's potential from being wasted.15226413_10154866391314739_1115977989_n

The Junk Food Project manifests itself is in the form of around 60 cafes all over the UK and Europe; many of which run other pop-up events and catering. They all use food that would have otherwise been wasted and serve it on a Pay-As-You-Feel basis. The project was started by a former chef called Adam Smith in Leeds in 2013, who had seen the extent of industrial food waste and wanted to do something about it.

Sounds great. How is it evolving to now get people thinking about growing healthy food locally?

Around this time last year we began to question the logic we'd worked to so far, that intercepting waste food was the only solution. The actual amount of food the project intercepts compared to the amount a city like Birmingham produces is miniscule. We also realised that the more dependant we were on food waste from supermarkets, the more fragile a position we are in if that food source dries up. We realised that growing food locally would be a great antidote to the moral and environmental problems created by the global food industry, and that it would also be a great model for an alternative food industry without waste.

The more we thought about it, the more potential we saw.  In an effort to decrease the gap between food production and the people, the grow sites will be as close to the cafes as possible, so that the community can get involved and directly improve their health and wellbeing. We also see the capacity to educate people about where their food comes from.

How can people get involved?

Come down to one of our cafes, have some food and just get involved! We always need cafe volunteers, cooks, drivers and other assorted helpers, but just as useful to us are resources, contacts and spaces to run our cafes and store our food. Right now what I've been suggesting to people is, tell us what you do well, tell us what your skills are, and even if you don't think it will be useful to us there's a solid chance you can help enrich the project. That's also the essence of Pay-As-You-Feel.

What events are coming up for people to get involved with? The Real Junk Food Project Birmingham

There's always something new popping up for us, so if you want to keep up with the latest events we're running and involved in, I'd suggest checking out our Facebook page and Twitter, or our website. The cafe in Ladywood opens on Wednesday for lunch (12-2pm) and dinner (6-8pm). Our chefs serve up three course meals, designed on the day, using the ingredients we have to hand. We do lunch on Friday at the same time, and also a tea service from 3.30-5pm, which is ideal for families to bring kids to after school. Additionally, if you’re in King’s Heath or Quinton on a Monday, we do lunch at King’s Heath Community Centre from 12-2pm, and the same at Haven Community Centre too. The crowds at our cafes are diverse and the atmosphere is friendly. We maintain that everyone is welcome to eat with us.

I’d say to anyone who reads this, come eat with us and see what we do. Help us grow, share your skills and spread the word!

Thanks for speaking to us Ben. Keep up the good work.

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