news & views

Feed bellies not bins – the Real Junk Food Project

Alice Doyle07.2015 Community, Events, Projects, The C-side Challenge

As part of this months waste theme for our C-Side Challenge, we spoke to Sarah Betts, a Director of the inspirational Real Junk Food Project. In the UK, 15 Million tonnes of perfectly edible food ends up in landfill each year, some of it before even reaching the supermarket shelves.

What is the inspiration behind the Real Junk Food Project?

We started the cafe in February after hatching the idea in November 2014. We have been able to hire the One Church Cafe on Fridays to cook intercepted food and serve it on a Pay as You Feel basis, opening between 1.00-3.00.

The aim has been to feed people who are in food poverty. We have over 200 amazing volunteer supporters behind us. Our volunteers not only help to intercept food that would otherwise go to landfill, but also weigh, prepare and cook the food. Some food cannot be reused and what we cant keep, or leftovers, are composted using Silo’s industrial composter. We have a lot of compost looking for good homes too.

The project has been brilliant at connecting people within the community, and some of our volunteers who have been out of work or feeling isolated, have developed new skills, confidence and new friendships, from working on the Real Junk Food Project.

How do you feel about food waste.

What is difficult to tackle are public attitudes towards food waste. For instance at a supermarket, if one item in a netted bag of oranges has a small blemish, the whole bag will be discarded. Another issue are perceptions towards the uniformity of food, in that non-uniform vegetables will be discarded based on size or shape. Some supermarkets have a big surplus and negotiating our way around food legislation can be tricky. You cant sell waste food, which is why we developed the Pay-as-You-Feel concept.

We work closely with a large local supermarket, wholesalers, farmers and grocers from whom we collect edible food destined for landfill. Since February we have diverted 7,812 kilos of food and turned this into meals to feed 3,500 people.

What has held us back has been storage space for our intercepted food, so if anyone has spare storage space we can use we would love to hear from you. We have successfully crowdfunded for some shipping containers and once we have secured a premises later on in the year, we will open 7 days a week to tackle food waste and food poverty across the city.

What lessons can we learn?

We have as a team put in a lot of hard work, and learnt a lot negotiating the hurdles that we have come across. Our inspiration is to take the power back and help people and create hope. As we launch our second Pay as You Feel Cafe in Hollingdean and our plans for a Dedicated Real Junk Food Café, we feel we are achieving this.

We will soon be able to host workshops and provide local community projects and artists with a space to showcase their work. We will also be giving talks in schools to educate children about food waste and would like to explore ideas around the Gift Economy  which places more value on people, their time and effort.

If you can offer space for the Real Junk Food project to store food, want free compost or could volunteer, then please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) Or you can help by making a donation. For more see Facebook or Twitter.

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Brighton’s great Green Centre

Alice Doyle07.2015 Community, Education, The C-side Challenge

One of our top volunteers, Fran Romberg, talks to Melanie Rees of the Green Centre.

Since you last spoke with BPEC, how have your projects developed and do you have any new ones?

Our Reduce / Re-Use / Recycle Drop in on Tuesdays and Thursdays continues to be our core work; it is very well supported and the amount of donations we receive has increased year on year. We continue to process donations into 3 categories; re-use, charity and recycling. Our 2nd hand market goes from strength to strength and we have introduced special deals on every Thursday of the month to encourage people to buy 2nd hand. We now support 13 charities through our re-use scheme and this is one of the projects we are most proud of. We are constantly looking for new opportunities to recycle and now recycle a wider range of items than ever. We have just been voted in the top 50 Recycling websites in the UK. Our monthly Rag N’ Bone continues to be as popular as ever and Mary and Buddy the horse are in their 4th season with us. It is AMAZING to see a horse trekking around East Brighton and even more AMAZING to see the children’s faces when they meet Buddy and hear the stories of residents who remember back in the day when the Rag N Bone was a weekly occurrence.

The Mile of Potatoes food growing project grows each year and while we have not managed to grow a mile of potatoes in any one year we will continue to nurture this project every year. The La Colosa Gold Mine Campaign has been a work in progress since 2011, slowly unfolding and our decision, 2 years ago, to develop the on-line  photo petition into an exhibition culminated in the opening of our permanent exhibition, on site, at our Open Day this year, on July 25th. It has been a long and emotional journey and so many wonderful people have helped make it happen. We are delighted that we have such a strong connection with our friends in Colombia and in turn that they feel supported by us.

The BIG new project we have begun is the Law of the Rights of Mother Earth. Following in the footsteps of the Bolivian Government who passed a Law in 2012 giving Rights to Mother Earth, we are campaigning for a similar law in this country. Unlike Bolivia who’s approach is a top down movement, we decided after a year attempting to engage with the UK Government that we are pursuing a bottom up approach. We have chosen one of the Laws and are encouraging people to adopt that on a personal level. Law number 3 is the Right to clean water and we are about to launch this campaign in Brighton & Hove through our Facebook page and a yarn bombing exercise.

Do you think that there is progress being made in terms of waste and recycling in Brighton and Hove?

Yes I do think there is progress being made in terms of waste & recycling in Brighton & Hove. I know from our point of view, the sheer quantities of waste and recycling we process. I know from my relationship with Cat of Freegle that the sheer volume of stuff being diverted from landfill is increasing year on year. I met with Jan Jonker from the Council 2 weeks ago to discuss the latest developments in the Council and I am very encouraged by their plans. I think it is unfortunate that the Green Council inherited a problem related to inequalities in the pay scheme for female workers and particular positions and that their efforts to sort this out, with a deadline imposed, led to strikes in the waste and recycling teams. This unfortunately gave an inaccurate view of what is actually happening with waste & recycling. The data from the Green Centre, Magpie, Shabitat and Freegle are not included in the Council figures and I believe this would also paint a very different picture of how well the city is doing.

How can others get involved to support the work at the Green Centre?

People can get involved in many ways; 

 

Silo – Brighton’s first zero waste cafe

Alice Doyle08.2015

As part of our look at waste around the city, we spoke to Becki of the North Laines based restaurant, Silo.

What inspired Silo?

Silo started in Melbourne at a restaurant called Greenhouse, which had been constructed entirely out of waste materials, such as using melted down bins for the floors. It was the first zero carbon cafe of its kind, and the head chef, Douglas McMaster, decided to set one up when he had moved to Brighton.

Silo is designed from back to front, always with the bin in mind. At Silo we use all reclaimed or upcycled materials, such as old re-purposed floor tiles, or old school tables. The idea is to maximise reuse before recycling.

Food wise, we eliminate waste by choosing to trade directly with farmers or choosing local ingredients that themselves generated no waste.

How do you feel about food waste?

The issues behind food are very broad and on a day-to-day basis, our choices around food have the potential to have a big impact. It’s important that we change the message about food, to be less wasteful, and overall use our resources of food more efficiently.

To minimise food waste we keep a limited and selective menu to accommodate everyone’s requirements. We try to provide quality through purity by adopting a more primitive diet using both modern and ancient culinary techniques.

We also work closely with the Real Junk Food Project, who pass to us intercepted food waste that they receive in bulk. For instance we received 1,500 mangoes recently, which we used to make everything from cakes to smoothies.

We also have an industrial composter that can take everything from coffee cups to bones, it is heated so the process takes place very quickly. So all of our scraps and trimmings turn into compost that is used to produce more food… closing the loop.

What lessons can restaurateurs learn from Silo

The main ambition is to show how achievable it is to reduce waste and support the local economy and local farmers. We work with Fork and Dig It as well as Ashurst Organics. We have shown it is possible to create closed-loop catering and also make it economically viable.

Our food is also very nutritionally dense as we choose food sources that allow ingredients to be themselves without unnecessary processing. For instance we mill our own flour, which keeps in the nutrients, and it is used immediately. We also use ancient grains, and as the mill is live, the bread is far more easily digestible, which lessens the problem of gluten intolerance.

We want to step back, and make a direct connection between farmers and the produce we are making.

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