In 10 Months, This Cafe Has Fed 10,000 People with 20 Tons of Unwanted Food*
By Amanda Froelich
The social cafe prepares delicious meals from products discarded by supermarkets, independent grocers, and food banks. Patrons may also ‘Pay As They Feel’, so no one ever goes hungry.
Are you aware that in the United States, nearly 40% of the food produced is tossed into the trash? As it makes its way to the landfill, 795 million people in the world wonder where their next meal will come from.
This is exactly what Adam Smith, founder of The Real Junk Food Project, is doing in Armley, Leeds.
The social entrepreneur has created an empire of ‘social cafes’ through which to cook up stews, casseroles, soups and cakes with the unwanted products from supermarkets, independent grocers, and food banks.
The most unique aspect of the business model is that it has a “pay as you feel” rule. This policy encourages patrons to pay what they feel they can pay. If that amounts to nothing, then they can work for their meal.
The Independent reports that in only 10 months, Smith has helped feed 10,000 people on 20 tons of unwanted food. In addition, he’s raised over 30,000 pounds (U.K.).
Since its success, forty-seven other similar style cafes have popped up in Manchester, Bristol, Saltaire, Los Angeles, Brazil, Warsaw, and Zurich.
In the United States, a similar grocery store called The Daily Table transforms unwanted or ‘expired’ leftovers into perfectly nourishing and tasty food for customers. The founder of that endeavour is Doug Rauch, the former president of Trader Joe’s.
It’s difficult for entrepreneurs inspired to repurpose food to carry out their vision, as in many areas of the world, retailers can be prosecuted if they sell food after the use-by date. The ‘best-before’ date is allowed, which is why Smith’s organization wants the law to be changed to prevent supermarkets from disposing of so much food at the fear of prosecution.
Dinner made from discarded food products / Credit: TRJFP Facebook
Thankfully, progress is being made. Earlier this year, France made it illegal for supermarkets to purposely waste food. Stores must now donate unsold food to charity, for animal feed, or for farming compost.
Unfortunately, groups like Smith’s are often looked down upon because they seek food others deem not optimal for consumption. With a change of perspective, however, everyone might come to understand that a good share of food thrown into dumpsters is perfectly edible.
Recognizing this sooner rather than later would benefit everyone on the planet.
In Britain, food prices have risen 47% since 2003, which is quite high compared to the United States’ 30.4%, reports The Independent. Germany’s food inflation is 22.1% and France’s is 16.7%.
When people struggle to afford the basic necessities in life, you can be certain there’s a fault – if not many – with ‘the system’.
The Real Junk Food Project is an amazing concept and business model which will, hopefully, inspire other social cafes to sprout and blossom, as well.