Around 15 million tonnes of food is wasted every year in the UK alone, and the vast majority of that food is perfectly edible. The lowest carbon, most sustainable thing we can do with food that is going to go to waste is put it in a belly, any belly, rather than a bin, any bin (landfill, anaerobic digestion, animal feed, or compost). For every tonne of food that we save from going to waste, we save about 4.2 tonnes of CO2e from being emitted, and around 10% of the UK’s carbon footprint come from food that is never eaten.
At Real Junk Food Manchester (RJFM), absolutely all of our meals are served on a pay-as-you-feel basis. Pay-as-you-feel offers an innovative, inclusive model that deliberately bucks the recent trend towards food banks. We aim to offer an inclusive space where people from all backgrounds and of any social / economic status are welcome. Customers are invited to decide what they consider to be the value of the meal they enjoy, and to support the project with their time, energy, skills, or a financial donation if they would prefer, or are able. This is a conscious choice to work against the unfortunate consequence of a food bank model, where the poorest and most vulnerable in our society are segregated, often being offered little dignity or choice.
Using wasted food ingredients, focusing a model on cooking and serving great meals, and offering meals on a pay-as-you-feel basis means that RJFM also reverses the trend of the poorest in our society having the worst diets, and having severely limited access to healthy food. One of the highest areas of food waste, at farm, wholesale, and supermarket level, is fresh vegetables and fruits. By sourcing food that would go to waste, the project intercepts a huge quantity of basic, healthy ingredients, offering access to good food, and further bucking the trend of the most vulnerable within our society being offered heavily processed, tinned or dried meals.
The long-term aim of the project is very simple; to put ourselves “out of business” by reducing avoidable food waste to the point where we can no longer sustain our project, and to influence the development of a food system that is environmentally sustainable, socially conscious and accessible.
We do this by using our work to raise awareness among consumers, food businesses and local and regional government about the scale and senselessness of food waste, it’s huge environmental and social impacts, and how everyone can help to make our food system better.
In the long run we would like to see a system where the high proportion of avoidable food waste is stopped before it happens, and the remaining, much smaller amount, of unavoidable waste food is diverted to those in need, with a focus on healthy food and cooked meals.
We recognise that this is a mammoth task with a number of different threads including (but not limited to); reducing farm level waste and the refusal of supermarkets to accept cosmetically imperfect produce, removal of best before dates from food items, pushing larger food businesses to effectively record and report their waste, regulatory and legislative changes, consumer education about more sustainable food choices, reduction in food packaging and moves to more biodegradable packaging… and many more.
Real Junk Food Manchester is about valuing people and planet before profits, and this thread feeds through everything we do. Our project aims to support people to reduce food waste and have better nutrition in their homes, by offering recipes and information, and we hope ion the future, basic cookery courses. We also aim to support people in getting back into work by offering placements and training to people who might otherwise struggle to find work.
In recent years the community and charity sector has seen huge reductions in the amount of funding available. This has led to reductions in support for our most vulnerable citizens, and in some cases a competitive rather than collaborative attitude between funded groups doing similar work. Real Junk Food Manchester aims to develop a financially sustainable business model based on the pay-as-you-feel concept that allows customers to support our activities in a way that suits them, and supports us in doing some good in the world!
FROM BEING OMMITTED INTO THE ATMOSPHERE
WITH A HOT, NUTRITIOUS MEAL