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'Pay as you feel' Forage Cafe makes good use of food waste

Written by
Claire Patterson

The media often reminds us that food waste is a worldwide problem. In Europe alone, it's estimated that around 89 million tonnes of food is thrown away each year. This is something that we should find especially distressing when you consider that there are people in our own country who are struggling to eat three meals per day. Is there anything that we can do?

For starters, we can all help at home by reducing waste and eating more economically. Plus, buying only what you need will both minimise waste and save you pennies. 

The biggest problem lies with the supermarkets and larger restaurants. Bound by laws and restrictions that force them to dispose of food past their 'use by' dates, means a lot of perfectly edible food being thrown into landfills, adding to the problem of food wastage.

To try and tackle this issue, a number of initiatives are popping up across the country. One such organisation is The Real Junk Food Project; a registered charity originating from Leeds that has set up several social enterprises across the country that take the unwanted or surplus food and channel it back in to the community by providing meals created from it.

The latest venture from The Real Junk Food Project takes the form of Forage Cafe, a three-week pop-up on Briggate in the old Wok On store, starting from August 29

Forage Cafe

A team of volunteers, including teenagers, architects, graphic designers and musicians have been responsible for setting up and running the cafe. Thanks to their hard work, what was once a noodle bar will be transformed into a fresh and clean brunch and lunch spot.

Having to rely from donations, there is no money to spend on fancy lighting, cookers or even paint to give Forage its makeover. Luckily, the good guys over at Seagulls paint have donated several pots to help them create a fresh and inviting look to the cafe. 

Of course, a restaurant needs more than just a nice space to eat – what will their customers eat their food on, or with? This time a catering salesman and local law firm stepped in to donate a mismatch heap of crockery and cutlery. 

The Real Junk Food Project

The food will be provided by those who the Real Junk Food Project have already made alliances with. This includes several large supermarket chains, Nando's, Leeds Kirkgate market and other donators.

The unpredictable nature of using food that has been rescued from being wasted means each day the chefs will have a challenging task on their hand: ingredients will be whatever they can get their hands on. On the plus side, this means an unpredictable menu you're unlikely to see at a traditional restaurant or cafe.

When Forage first opens its doors on Saturday August 29, expect to dine on fresh soups, slow cooked dishes, sandwiches and, well, anything they can cook up in a wok. 

So, what happens when it comes to settling the bill after your meal? As a social enterprise Forage will operate a 'pay as you feel' initiative: you give Forage the amount you feel the meal is worth. If you can't afford to pay you can 'pay-back' your meal in time, whether that be washing the pots for an hour, serving tables or helping out with their social media.

However, it's worth remembering that any amount given is helping the project keep running, paying overheads such as electricity costs, condiments and spices. Any remaining profits will be banked to help them find a permanent place in the city centre.

The Real Junk Food Project

When Forage started the renovations on Briggate they were unaware of how long they would have the premises for. The shop itself has been closed for sometime with no interest in it being taken over.

However, one week before opening the project already suffered a setback: the premises had been let, meaning the cafe could only stay in its locations for three weeks once they opened. So, keep your eyes peeled for a future Kickstarter to find a more permanent place to call home.

The Real Junk Food Project

Unlike other Real Junk Food Project endeavours (like its 'Food Ambulance'), Forage will not only be providing food but a range of arts and music events too. Like the food, these events are also follow a 'pay as you feel' approach, with a Pom Pom stitch up party, storytellers, and live musicians already planned.

Follow them on Twitter and Facebook to find out more details about when the events will take place. If you have some free time on your hands why not get involved, The Real Junk Food Project is looking for volunteers all the time get in touch with them via their website to find your local cafe.

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