Every year around one third of food ends up in landfill around the world. In the UK alone this equates to approx 3.6 million tonnes every year.
When you consider that it is estimated that 8.4 million people in the UK are living in extreme poverty and are struggling to feed themselves you begin to see that that this shocking amount of food waste is not only bad for the environment, but also a shocking waste of food that could be feeding starving families.
Bellies not bins
A large amount of food waste generated in the UK comes from supermarkets discarding food that has reached it’s sell-by date. More often than not, the sell-by date precedes the use-by date and even then, the use-by date will air on the side of caution resulting in food being discarded that may not longer be worthy of selling but is very much still edible and worthy of eating.
The solution is obvious. Do not let food go to waste. Share it out amongst those in need.
It was this simple concept that inspired a young chef called Adam Smith to create a not-for-profit organisation titled ‘The Real Junk Food Project whose aim is to divert discarded supermarket food from landfill to the kitchen in order to offer meals to people in need.
The first ‘The Real Junk Food Project’ cafe was opened in Leeds in 2013 (pictured above), but today has grown into a worldwide network, feeding people in seven countries through 120 affiliated projects.
One of the most recent cafe’s to open is located in the city of Birmingham in the UK. Dibah is a volunteer at @TRJFPBrum and she explains their aims:
“Our aim is to raise the issue of food waste. We collect food that’s past it’s sell-by date from supermarkets and other food outlets 7 days a week, but we’re not a food bank.
@TRJFPBrum there’s no such thing as a free lunch. We believe this food is still worth something, so we operate a ‘Pay As You Feel’ system’ but money is not the only currency.
Whether we’re giving food out as groceries or making it into meals at one of our five community cafes, it’s affordable for everyone; the affluent, the homeless and hungry, the elderly or environmentalists. Those who are money-poor have other things to offer in return; cooking, cleaning, accounting, delivering, we have over 100 volunteers here from all walks of life. Any skill comes in handy @TRJFPBrum!”
Last year in the UK alone The Real Junk Food Project intercepted around 400 tonnes of waste food. That’s enough to feed a wholesome meal to 800 thousand hungry tums.
On the surface It sounds like a huge success story but sadly not all the food they intercept makes it as far as the plate.
“It’s great that we’re feeding those in food poverty but first and foremost we’re an environmental charity. We don’t want to exist, we shouldn’t exist, but the mountain of food produced and wasted just keeps growing. Inevitably we inherit food which isn’t fit for human consumption or can’t be distributed in time before its use-by date… so a significant amount still ends up in landfill, causing enormous environmental harm.”
In order to try to combat this waste, Dibah and her colleagues decided to deploy two Ridan composters, which can be fed almost any food and they’re certainly not fussy about use-by dates!
‘We thought by composting our excess food, rather than sending it to landfill, we’d get nearer to closing the recycling loop …. and produce less pollution. The Ridans will help us to achieve that goal’..
Dibah’s so pleased she already has plans to spread the word.
“The Ridan is working really well. We need to educate people on how to reduce food waste; Birmingham could be a lot more sustainable as a city. Our long-term aim is to help our community to waste less in the first place but we also want to get local businesses interested in recycling excess food in a carbon neutral way.
We’ll be saying, “come and have a look at this, you can have one of these Ridan’s in your back yard; it composts your food waste, helps the environment and brings down your refuse bills!”
To volunteer @TRJFPBrum contact: www.trjfpbrum.com