Stop in the Name of Grub! - September Meeting - Food Waste

Sunday, 20 September 2015 § 0

This month’s meeting was certainly an eye opener for many of us into the real workings of corporate waste verses community hunger with our talk from Adam Smith of the Real Junk Food Co.


Adam, with a 15 year career in the catering industry including a spell as a top class chef in Sydney, Australia, first became aware of the futility of food waste when working on a farm as part of a government scheme to extend his via in Australia. “We were feeding the pigs courgettes. There was nothing wrong with these courgettes, we were eating them ourselves, but they had grown too big for the supermarkets who cancelled the order”. Rather than totally waste the crop or plow it back into the fields as fertilizer, the local farmers would donate waste crops to feed the pigs in exchange for other produce from their neighbouring farms. “I asked the farmer, why can’t this be diverted to feed the homeless in Sydney” as there was a massive problem with starving homeless people in the city at the time. Government agencies were literally sweeping them off the street to move them on to avoid their tainting the city’s image at Christmas. “The farmer told me there was cost involved in transporting the waste crops to the city and they were already losing money on waste crops” After all, these were business’s. So Adam did a deal with the farmers, and the restaurant contacts he had in the city to allow him to collect and take some of the waste food to the city, and set up a pop up Pay As You Feel (or are able) café in the city. It was a resounding success and fabulous publicity for the restaurants involved for their corporate social image. From there, the Real Junk Food Co’ was formed.


Fast forward several years, an economic crash and mass poverty becoming a real fact of British life for many of the least fortunate in society and Adam, who was recently named one of the most influential men in business worldwide for his work, is back in the UK and working out of Armley. Since their humble beginnings in Sydney, Adam has helped hundreds of communities worldwide set up Pay as You Fell cafes, using his model of intercepted waste food. In the UK he has worked tirelessly to bring major players in the food sales world on board in order to divert their waste food into community cafes. Nandos willingly hand over any pre prepared chicken not used on the day to his project (with cooked chicken having a 3 day life shelf and their policy being to use it on the day of preparation)..Many a Sunday in Adams’ Armley pay as you feel café involves a Nandos chicken Sunday lunch. Morrisons have recently come on board running a pilot scheme of handing over their food waste to the projects. This seems to have allowed them to work with Adam to avoid waste whilst highlighting and improving their internal policies to prevent food getting to a wastage point in its’ shelf life to start with and that is what Adam is all about.
“I don’t want to have to be doing this, I want to go out of business because there is no food waste to divert back up” Adam doesn’t want to be the middle man, he wants food waste to stop or big business to be doing this automatically alongside their local communities.


It’s not just “donated” food that Adam collects. There’s a fair amount of skip diving being done with informal agreements from some suppliers to turn a blind eye to this, as they don’t feel they can openly hand the products over due to government legislation. Adam largely targets the out of town stores for this now, leaving the inner city sites for the local homeless population to make use of. He also has an arrangement with a local wholesale supplier who call them in there is any unnecessary waste due to burocracy (such as a £15k case of coconut oil that was due to be wasted because a few of the bottles on top had been smashed and the business involved is not allowed to wash away the spilled oil and glass to sell the bottles below!).

Adams’ organisation has opened the first Pay as you Feel Café in a Leeds school. One of his regular customers told him that because she could come to the café to get good quality food for her children at a donate what you can afford price, she was slowly being able to save enough money up to buy a bottle sterilizer for her babys food! Other projects within the café are teaching the local children what food is and where it comes from, with several local children not realising that apples grew on trees until Adam was offering them free windfall apples from a local donator to take home with them.


In Armley the main café is having a massive community impact giving a community focus for those who most need it. For several people the support received there has genuinely been the difference between life and a self imposed death. Armley is often used as a council depository for single men with drink and drugs problem with insufficient support given to help them. Resultantly suicide is a growing issue. Adams café opens its doors to all and has often stepped in to give moral support and companionship to this group when trying to turn their lives around, teaching them how to cook and giving some of them a focus as a volunteer in the café giving back to the community in their own turn.



So what does Adam need from us? He needs us to be aware of all of these things going on. He would like it if we can spread the word and use his cafes and pay what we can afford for the food (and bare in mind, Adam is a top class chef serving top class food when he is in the kitchen), those monies are diverted back into the projects to help more people.  Adam himself is eligible for working tax credits he pays himself himself so little as manager of the charity despite recently moving some of his volunteers onto a paid living wage. Pay it on and pay it forward, but whatever you do, do not waste it!

You can find out more information via https://www.facebook.com/TheRealJunkFoodProject?fref=ts and keep an eye out for their website launching next month!

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