NON-profit dining initiative, Real Junk Food Project (RJFP), which rescues food that would otherwise unnecessarily go to waste, have surpassed their original £25k crowdfunding target and, following a series of successful pop-up events over the last two years, are now ready to put down roots and open Manchester’s first waste food café, restaurant and social space, with all meals being offered on a pay-as-you-feel basis.
After a couple of previous locations fell through, the team have finally set their sights on a venue in Ancoats
The one rule at RJFP is that everyone must be fed, not just the poor and destitute, and that customers, regardless of wealth, should only pay what they feel their feed is worth - usually a few quid or more. Those unable to pay can volunteer to work at the café instead.
The project, which is part of a international initiative started in Leeds in 2013 (there are now branches in Oz, Israel and America) has been brought to Manchester by directors Corin Bell and Chris Haydon, with the kitchen being headed-up by chef Mary-Ellen McTague, who has been working with them since closing Aumbry, her Prestwich restaurant, in 2015.
After a couple of previous locations fell through, the team have finally set their sights on a venue in Ancoats which they have secured for the next six months.
Research has revealed that an estimated fifteen million tonnes of perfectly good food is wasted in Britain each year and Real Junk Food Project aim to do something about it. Some ingredients never make it off the farm, having been knocked back by supermarkets and wholesalers for cosmetic reasons, while some products have been rejected by supermarkets as it’s cheaper for them to bin rather than sort through and put it back on the shelves.
The Crowdfunder was set up to help them improve the site and to develop a mobile kitchen that can be moved into any space that has electricity and running water, meaning they won’t have to leave equipment behind and waste resources if they need to relocate. They also need to source as much equipment as possible, second hand where possible to comply with their aim of reducing waste.
Having hit their original target eight days before the deadline, thanks to a huge swell of support from backers and via social media, they have made the decision to increase it to £30k, with the additional £5k going towards the purchase of small equipment and sundries needed to operate the restaurant. This will include: pans, trays, mixers and blenders, a juicer, knives, chopping boards, crockery, cutlery, glasses, chairs, extraction filters, storage containers, utensils, an upgraded convection oven, fridges, a freezer, outside signage, food safety equipment, shelving, bowls, graters, sieves, colanders, a basic till system app and probably the kitchen sink.
The additional money will also be used to fund the staff needed to offer free cooking lessons to Manchester’s low income and vulnerable residents as well as producing learning materials like recipe books.
The Real Junk Food Project will join the growing food and drink scene in Ancoats
Those pledging £10 will be able to pick up a junk food jar of “This Is Rubbish” jam, chutney or preserve, made from 100% wasted food ingredients. Each £25 donation gets pledgers a main meal and dessert at any Junk Food Project pop-up restaurant evening of their choice. The first 30 supporters to pledge £100 will be invited to attend an exclusive cooking workshop, followed by a sit down meal with head chef Mary-Ellen, who appeared on series nine of Great British Menu. She will teach guests how to create amazing meals that reduce food waste as well as inspiring new ways to use up leftovers.
Donations over £250 can enjoy a supper for ten made in their own home, while £750 will get you some top quality party catering. The names of all those supporters who have pledged money to help launch the charitable project will also be added to their website.
Read more about The Real Junk Food Manchester here. Donations and further information about their cafe and restaurant can be made on their Crowdfunding page. The cut off point for donations is 3.10pm on the 13th January.