Real Junk Food Project Sheffield Kitchen

Pickled Pair: Why I love junk food

Exposed foodie blogger Helen Davies AKA Pickled Pair takes a look at the new movement tackling food waste – the Real Junk Food Project.

Food waste. Everyone’s talking about it, right? I mean, it’s just so terrible – good food being chucked away for no apparent reason. And it’s no-ones fault. It’s not you. It’s me. Or us. Even Them. Households, manufacturers, restaurants, retailers. Sadly, the UK is seen as the worst offender in the EU ditching around 15 million tonnes of food every year. Or put another way, three wheelie bins of edible food per person. That’s a lot of tea.

But so what? We’ve all got food in our bellies. We can’t be expected to use everything we buy, and eat everything we try. That’s life. Deal with it.

Umm, well, actually, if you stop and think about it, it’s all a bit rubbish really, isn’t it? I mean, since when did food become such a throw away commodity? Probably since supermarkets started controlling much of the UK’s (and beyond) food production, rejecting good stuff because it isn’t the right size or shiny enough or round enough or sweet enough. And probably because, proportionally, households now spend significantly less on food than they did a generation ago. And don’t get me on to use-by dates – what a cunning trap – we don’t recognise half the ingredients in the product we’ve just bought, so, of course, we are bound to chuck it when we are told to by those who know better.

Increasingly, we are all starting to get a little bit disturbed by all this garbage. In fact some of us are actually trying to doing something about it. Cue blossoming local legend, Jo Hercberg, director of The Real Junk Food Project in Sheffield, getting the word out across our seven hills that junk food ain’t all that bad.

We caught up with Jo after volunteers created some good-waste-tucker at the latest pop-up in Sharrow to find out what’s going on.

Real Junk Food Project Sheffield

Tell us about The Real Junk Food Project Sheffield, Jo.

The Real Junk Food Project Sheffield is a voluntary run food waste campaign. We take surplus and excess foods and turn it into meals for people on a pay-as-you-feel basis. People can pay using a monetary donation or a different contribution such as their time or skills.

We like the circular-economy vibe going on here – where did you get the idea?

The concept originates from Leeds where the first pay-as-you-feel cafe opened in December 2013. Since then the growing network has saved over 100 tonnes of food from landfill and fed 58,000 people with nutritious meals.

So, are you a charity or a business or both?

The Real Junk Food Project Sheffield is a not-for-profit social enterprise. We have three directors, headed up by myself, and a large group of wonderful and active volunteers. We are not a charity but we are part of The Real Junk Food Project network which is headed up by their charitable foundation.


What inspired you personally to go gunning for the trash?

I absolutely love food and cooking and always have. My Grandma taught me to cook very early on and being a Rotherham lady with five sons she certainly knew how to make use of all food available. Going to university in 2001 made me aware that not everyone has the same experience with home-cooking. I was aware of the movement in Leeds and read an article online one Saturday afternoon, so I got in touch with the founder Adam Smith who gave me lots of help and information and before I knew it the first pop-up was organised!

Why Sheffield?

Being a city with a village feel, Sheffield felt perfect for such a community spirited project and I couldn’t believe we didn’t already have it here. I’ve lived here since 2001 and I wanted to give something back to the City that’s become my home.

What have you been up to and where are you at?

We started in May this year, and have been very fortunate as the good people of Sheffield have welcomed the initiative with open arms! Sheffield University’s Students Union, Food Aware CIC, Sheaf Training, Grace Food Bank, Food Cycle, Sheffield on a Plate, The Grantham Centre, S6 Food Bank, Banana Bob, Forge Bakehouse, Stretti, Beanie’s, Sainsbury’s Local, Picture House Social and countless individuals have all jumped on board. Each pop-up has run with over 20 volunteers and we’re getting daily requests from people wanting to be involved. One of our volunteers has even managed to source pretty much our whole ‘wish-list’ from Streetlife, Gumtree and Freecycle!​​

We’ve been really busy working to raise awareness of the project in Sheffield, sourcing equipment, and building networks with food businesses and other useful contacts – The Real Junk Food Project really does bring the best out in everyone and we’ve been blown away by the support we’ve had already.

10003703_397793693744707_6052964690240953974_oAnd the ambition for Sheffield?

First and foremost we want to raise awareness of how much food is wasted every single day. By reporting how much food we save and how many people this can feed we want people to start questioning how sustainable food production really is.

Over the next 12 months we will run at least one pop-up per month in a different area of Sheffield to bring the project to new areas and to encourage and enable communities to set up their own.

But what we really need to make a difference every day is to secure a van and a venue so that we can run our own cafe and collect and store food donated.

If you want to get involved with The Real Junk Food Project Sheffield give them a follow on Twitter @realjunkfoodS8 find them on Facebook/RealJunkFoodSheffield – or better still go see them at their next pop-up on Saturday August 29 at The Burton Street Foundation in Hillsborough from 6-8pm.

For more from Helen Davies follow on Twitter @Pickled_Pair.

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