The Real Junk Food Project (RJFP) is a campaign that aims to intercept surplus edible food waste to feed "bellies not bins"
The Real Junk Food Project (RJFP) is a campaign that operates in various forms in towns and cities across the UK. In Greater Manchester, this project provides local catering from surplus food across the city-region in Oldham as well as Wigan, Tameside and Bolton.
RJFP Manchester is a not-for-profit community interest company that established a pay-as-you-feel café in central Manchester for one year between 2017 and 2018, where customers could pay as much or as little as they like for a meal. The project intercepted surplus food that would otherwise be wasted and transformed it into healthy food for everyone and anyone to enjoy.
The varying nature of the ingredients the restaurant received meant that chefs needed to be flexible and able to adapt, producing new menus on a regular basis. The pay-as-you-feel aspect of the café’s ethos meant that it was a socially inclusive space, and it was important to the project’s directors and staff that everyone felt welcome.
Through practical actions (feeding people) and campaigning the project sought to address the social and environmental problems of food poverty and food waste. While the café had a system whereby customers could pay as much or as little as they liked, the directors and staff incorporated inventive means to fundraise to support their work, such as holding special “fine dining” evenings.
The cafe closed when their property lease expired and is now a catering business called Open Kitchen MCR.
The project raised £39,155 on Crowd Funder in January 2017 to set up the pay-as-you-feel café.
Evidence of success
After being open for 6 months, the café had intercepted close to 20 tonnes of food that would otherwise have gone to waste. A small proportion of the food was redistributed to other organisations but the majority was turned into meals at the café (12,690 meals). Their 10,000th meal was served on 31st January 2018.
According to the project’s website, every tonne of food intercepted saves approximately 4.2 tonnes of Co2e from being emitted.
The pay-as-you-go nature of the café meant that financial stability was not guaranteed and directors and staff had to consider creative ways to raise funds. The short lease on the property hindered the project's long-term viability, however this was overcome by becoming a catering company.
Potential for learning or transfer
Food waste is a significant environmental problem and the Real Junk Food Project Café is a particularly interesting example of where food waste is being avoided/reduced while at the same time, providing a socially inclusive space where all people are welcome.