The Real Junk Food Project

by - July 29, 2015

Well, what an amazing project! 12,000 tonnes of food saved in 6 months and turned into healthy meals! I went to investigate on Food Revolution Ambassador duty, to share the success and creative effort of the team behind it and take a closer look in the hope of inspiring more set-ups like this nation and even world-wide, reducing world hunger one city at a time...

I went last Friday with 3 of my students -from Spain, Russia and Czech Republic who had all never heard of such a thing and were intrigued, confused and amazed at the idea. We walked in, accidentally through the back door, past a bunch of crates over-flowing with flawless looking vegetables - a good first impression. We were instantly struck by the overwhelmingly positive atmosphere and sense of community as it was the first thing we said to each other when we managed to sit down, at the last free table. I'm aware of sounding cliche and really don't want to sound cheesy but I cannot stress enough the good feeling I got from just being in there. I don't know if it was because it was raining outside and inside was a warm, friendly, busy hub where food was on offer or whether it was the colourful decor and diverse mix of people - young, old, poor and not so poor, who had come together, in an old church to eat and share food or the combination of both and someone tinkering away on an old piano in the corner, but I melted. 

After taking in all the signs and bunting and faces and smells, we walked up to the (first) food counter where we were met with an array of delicious, colourful options including spiced rice, Shepard's pie with meat, Shepard's pie without meat, ratatouille, salads, Spanish tortilla, a bread basket...and more. 

The food is prepared by professional in house chefs and then served by a whole host of friendly volunteers, giving up their time for the greater good. 

To the right of that was a stand of desserts which was being manned (or in this case, womanned) by a lady who had baked a coffee and walnut cake herself to bring in. There were doughnuts and chocolate cornflake cakes and then we watched as a huge tray of scones were brought out and the doughnuts were replenished again and again.


A coffee station promoting a job seekers-turned-trained baristas scheme that was underway was serving any coffee you'd like and next to that was a table with a huge bowl of plump washed blueberries which was later adorned with a big jug of blueberry and banana smoothie.

This menu changes weekly - incoporating whatever has been donated or intercepted and giving it another chance - "feeding bellies, not bins"
My students!
After lunch my students and I were invited to take part in a fermented foods workshop run by Octopus Alchemy who was running a free session about Sauerkraut. Run by the knowledgeable and extremely passionate Darren, the workshop taught us how to make it, the basics of the fermentation process and the broad health benefits of fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi and other pickled food. Having a Czech student with me, who makes sauerkraut on the regs, reminded me that the food revolution has already had a widespread reach and will continue to transmit through open projects like these. 

Before we left, I caught up with the manager, Jess, who told me that although she couldn't name the main supplier, "it has been fantastic to have their donations however the unfathomable fact that certain food, such as doughnuts - a baked, preservable good, is coming in every week as the supermarket is having the same surplus amount every week (all headed for the bin) raising the fundamental question: Why does it continue to produce this amount?"
"This is a only a minute fraction of the available food before it is discarded. It pains me and many people I know to see vast amounts of food in the 'reduced' section of shops that you just know nobody is going to buy, even heavily discounted."

 Jess has a point. Somebody at the top needs to do something about this and stop the overproduction when there is hunger elsewhere. In the meantime, it can intercepted and given to people less fortunate than us whilst donating to the cause in order to sustain the movement and support the momentum.

As an ambassador for The Food Revolution, a movement founded by Jamie Oliver that allows people who love food to come together to share information, inspire change in people’s food habits and promote the mission for better food and education for everyone, this project is a HUGE step forward in the right direction!  Being able to save food which is about to be wasted for no reason except some premature expiry 'date' - like a death sentence, in more than one sense, and turn it into delicious food, is not only standing up for food waste but showing how beautiful and accessible good food can be. Whatever a persons situation or circumstance, they should always be able to have access to good food, like they have access to free healthcare. Food is healthcare.

This project exists in many cities in the UK now: Leeds, Bristol, Manchester and Brighton to name a few. Please share with any food officials in your city and let's grow this into global action.

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