Junk Food That’s Good for You


‘From field to plate’ is one of many advertising slogans used by the food industry to feed us a mouth-watering image of the food it supplies. Unfortunately, it carries out a less appetising practice going too, which can best be described as ‘from field to bin’. That’s because an astonishing 1.3 billion tonnes, equating to one third of the world’s total food production, is wasted. And this is a world where, according to The Food and Agriculture Organisation, there are 795 million people who do not have enough food to lead a healthy, active life. In December 2013, a man from Yorkshire decided to try and do something about this scandal and set to work on opening a café intended to put previously unwanted food in bellies, rather than in bins. Let’s take a look at the story.

Adam Smith was working as a chef in Australia. Appalled by the amount of food that he saw being wasted, he came up with an idea. He immediately returned to his native Leeds and set up The Real Junk Food Project, an organic café converting food destined for waste into healthy, delicious meals. Three years later, The Real Junk Food Project has grown to a network of one hundred and twenty-five cafes worldwide and has just opened its first supermarket.

It is a charitable foundation, which operates a ‘pay as you feel’ pricing policy. Payment might involve money, but can just as easily be made by giving up your time, energy and skills to help the project.

According to Adam, ‘We do it because it’s the right thing to do. It’s not about getting a free meal or some free food, it’s about valuing food and giving back what you think it’s worth. We’ve got people cleaning up, washing the windows…we had a guy in who rewired the electrics in the café for us, so the business didn’t have to incur a cost.’

The project’s food comes from a variety of sources, including shops, restaurants, allotments, food banks and events. In one particular case, the BBC’s Children in Need programme had attempted a world record for the longest line of cupcakes, 15,000 in total, and needed someone to clear up the mess; enter Adam and The Real Junk Food Project, who put the cakes to good use, as opposed to having them sent to refuse.

On average, up to ten tonnes of food is intercepted daily. It becomes available because of a system that packages food with ‘use-by’ and ‘sell-by’ dates, encouraging consumers to throw away perfectly edible food so that they will go out and buy some more. The Real Junk Food Project uses common sense to determine edibility instead. Once the food is brought in, the chefs smell, taste and visually inspect the produce to determine whether or not it’s fit to eat. All of the cafes comply with Environmental Health Regulations, including those on food safety, storage, cooking and reheating, and most enjoy upwards of a three-star rating.

Adam says the organisation’s goal is clear: ‘We want to educate the next generation about food, so they are not dependent on food banks and cafes like us.’

If this sounds like something that you want to be involved in, then why not get in touch with him via therealjunkfoodproject@outlook.com.

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