Feed Bellies Not Bins

Created by Adam Smith, The Real Junk Food Project café in Armley, Leeds, feeds anyone who is unable to feed them themselves by providing warm meals.  

The warmth and comfort of the tiny corner shop in Armley hits you straight away once you step in the front door. The staff hurry to set up the café, clearing the chairs of the tables, putting fresh fruit in a bowl placed on top of the fridge, and warming the kitchen food up ready to be served. There are flowers perched in a vase on every wooden table and fairly lights hanging from the ceiling. They glow bright sparks of yellow light which bring the tiny corner café to life.

The Real Junk Food Project was set up by Adam Smith whose main aim was to feed bellies not bins. Whilst he was working as a chef in Melbourne Australia, he witnessed the large amount of food that was wasted within the food and agricultural industry.

So when Adam came back to the UK, he thought of setting up The Real Junk Food Project. At the start he sent out thousands of emails to companies about the issue of food waste, but only heard back from one. But he kept on going with his vision and success soon followed with a board of trustees behind their backs in 2013.

Their primary goal is to stop food going to waste, they get left over food from supermarkets and food banks. They “weigh everything that comes in, even a single tea bag,” said Theresa Milligan, a senior staff member at The Real Junk Food Project in Leeds. They do this to record the amount of food they get in each time, jotting if the amount is rising or decreasing.

From the start they didn’t have a solid plan, “it was just a little café in Armley,” said Theresa, that helped hungry people. It was individuals approaching them that said ‘I like what you do, can I open one in Pudsey or even Newcastle.’ So from there, and a little help with social media promotion, The Real Junk Food Project began. They managed to set up over 125 shops world-wide with eight in Leeds alone.

“The amount of food we get is horrendous and it’s not even the tip of the iceberg,” stressed Theresa, “everybody should have access to food and not everybody does these days.” The amount of food poverty they see is unbelievable and more should be done about this growing situation.

For example, they see a guy who is sleeping rough in a graveyard with rats. They have been in touch with an outreach programme, seeing if they can get him a place. They even got him a bus pass to travel, but he still sleeps rough. “We haven’t given up, we are still trying to get him a flat somewhere in this area so he doesn’t have to travel far,” Theresa explained.

Proving to the public this isn’t just a café in Armley, they have counselling sessions, reading lessons, writing lessons and socialising taking place. Lots of people need this café and they hope more people will join in the future.

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