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The Real Junk Food Project reside at refurbished Fitzherbert Community Hub, Kemptown

The charity cafe tackling food waste using surplus food

The Real Junk Food Project is taking one communal leap towards a more sustainable future. Their mission is to tackle food waste by serving surplus food from supermarkets to those who have the option to pay what they can afford. In doing so, they are feeding bellies, not bins also contributing to solving the issue of hunger in the midst of this economic crisis. A pioneering charity in the world of food and hospitality which many other businesses should be aspiring to replicate. 

I first noticed the Real Junk Food Project in the lanes which reside at The Gardener Cafe on Gardner Street. It turns out, if you keep walking down St James Street (and then walk some more) until you reach Kemptown, The Real Junk Food project has also taken over the parish hall of St John the Baptist Church – now known as the Fitzherbert Community Hub. 

Here is where I met one of the project directors, Paul, on a busy Thursday lunch time. The canteen was packed with people dining on donated surplus food which is served on a pay as you feel basis. The motivation for the project is to rescue and cook food which would otherwise be chucked away as waste. 

The RJFP team featuring Paul (third in from R)

Fitzherbert Community Hub

The £1.45 million renovation to build Fitzherbert Community Hub officially opened its doors in November 2022. Since, the community spirit has been bouncing off the walls and transpiring out onto the streets. Alongside The Real Junk Food Project are Brighton Table Tennis Club (BTTC), Voices in Exile, and the Catholic Parish of East Brighton, and together they have partnered up to establish and develop charity, character and community at ‘The Fiz’. 

The Real Junk Food Project is a network of cafes, pop-ups and projects founded by Adam Smith, all with the key motive to intercept food destined for landfill. A quarter to a third of food produced globally is wasted. And yet, there’s estimated to be 795 million people who do not get enough to eat. The Real Junk Food Project is working to find a solution to these two major issues. 

They receive their surplus food in bulk from supermarkets, which is then delivered to their hub in Bevendean. The produce then gets transferred to the cafes or is open to ‘shoppers’ weekdays in Bevendean (Leybourne Parade). 

Exterior of Fitzherbert Community Hub, Kemptown

Pay as you feel

Speaking further to Paul about The Fitzherbert Hub specifically, I ask him to explain the ‘pay as you feel basis’. Seems too good to be true, right? But what this means is that it allows consumers to pay what they can afford so that no one has to go hungry. In the Real Junk Food Project space, the chatter amongst those dining was infectiously warming. The room was beaming with young and old faces; supporters, people experiencing homelessness, carers, and volunteers. In between talk was the clatter of knives and forks on china. The benefit of this space is evident if you just look around. 

The money that you spend on the food goes towards sustaining the costs of collecting food, and also donations. While the chefs are busy cooking up a storm in a kitchen, the catering staff are smiling, willing volunteers who gleefully chat to anyone who comes through the door.

 

Not hungry? Grab a coffee instead

A space for community

Paul tells me how Fitzherbert Hub is not just about saving food waste, curing hunger, and eating for less, it is a space to meet people and get active too. There is always something going on when you are not stopping to eat or grab a coffee. The Real Junk Food cafe is “a platform for other social platforms” where after-school kids cookery takes place, or the ‘Food for Sport’ collaboration with Brighton Table Tennis Club allows people to do a spot of table tennis. Paraolympian Will Bayley often makes appearances at Fitzherbert hub and supports their events. It really is a space for making opportunities for all. 

While the Fitzherbert Hub hit the ground running, the focus now is all about getting the word out. They are expanding their opportunities by teaming up with local GPs and welcoming them to support any customers with chronic pain, and to battle the issue of loneliness. They also have brand new composter at the back of the hall to encourage some growing. Educational classes on fermenting, to recycle food scraps and bulk cooking are also occurring at the Hub. This is in order to teach the community about ways they can preserve their food themselves at home. 

I suggest that the demand to open more cafes around the city must be high. Paul responds that he would love to open more pop-ups, but the food supplies have reduced. There is less produce on supermarket shelves and (thankfully) supermarkets themselves are slowly starting to plan and develop ways of being less wasteful. However, the Real Junk Food Project is hoping to build further links with local residents. They will achieve this by growing food on allotments so that there is more produce available. 

How you can help The Real Junk Food Project

While the Real Junk Food Project like food donations in bulk from supermarkets, you can give a financial donation online. Or, volunteer at one of their cafes. They also have a few catering events on the way including a lunch for fifty diners, and an upcoming wedding. Catering is a perfect opportunity to spread the message of fighting food waste to your friends and family. Next time you have your own event, consider reaching out to The Real Junk Food Project. 

If you are looking for ways to reduce your own food waste from the comfort of your own abode, Paul is extremely excited to announce that two cooks have published their own recipe book. Rescue Recipes is out now so you too can cook with surplus food, just like The Real Junk Food Project.

Fancy more sustainable food? See how Wahaca are becoming more planet friendly with their dishes.

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