The Real Junk Food Project (TRJFP) Birmingham has been operating since 2014, intercepting over 600 tonnes of waste food and turning it into roughly 200 meals each week. The project rescues food that would otherwise go to waste from supermarkets and restaurants, converting it into healthy, nutritious meals on a ‘Pay-As-You-Feel’ basis via its cafés located around Birmingham and Solihull. There’s also an innovative ‘Freegan Box’ distribution scheme which runs weekly from its Ladywood and Kings Heath locations.
With no central store in Solihull, TRJFP Birmingham volunteers were driving considerable distances to select, collect and deliver intercepted produce. Fortunately, however, Alan Sarjant, Senior Vice President, Market Officer at Prologis UK and Dibah Farooqui from The Real Junk Food Project got talking at a Love Brum Patrons’ event and that conversation sparked a chain of events which is now benefitting the entire community.
Central to these positive changes is Dunston Farm and play barn in Solihull. Acquired as part of a long-term development opportunity, Prologis offered the use of the play barn as a central storage facility to TRJFP as part of its ‘Space for good’ initiative, which sees any vacant property acquired for future redevelopment being put to good use for charity or start-up businesses on a temporary basis. All this was made possible through Prologis UK’s relationship with Love Brum who introduced the team to Stacey Ennis, Community Development Worker at Solihull MBC.
Throughout the summer of 2017, Steve Haddock, Director Property Management at Prologis UK managed the essential works required to make the play barn safe and fit for purpose, and the contracts were signed in January 2018 giving TRJFP sole use of the building, with Solihull MBC offering 100% charitable relief on the business rates.
All parties are delighted with the success of this joint initiative which is bringing the community together. Produce is now stored at Dunstan Farm and distributed to the café in Hobbs Moat, reducing volunteer mileage, carbon footprint and food wastage.
Commenting on the impact of TRJFP, Stacey Ennis, Community Development Worker at Solihull MBC said, “Café customers and volunteers come from all walks of life – some with mental health issues, retirees, young mums – and it’s become a close-knit circle of friends all supporting one another in an inclusive and friendly atmosphere which is reducing social isolation.
“This project is having such a positive impact we’d like to see other areas setting up similar initiatives,” she added.
“It’s truly frightening to see the amount of good fresh fruit and veg, other foodstuff and many household items that would otherwise go into landfill if it weren’t intercepted and fairly distributed by The Real Junk Food Project,” said volunteer, Jay.
Fellow volunteer, Annette said, “No two weeks are the same and the atmosphere is so welcoming. We have quite a few regulars who appear to enjoy that they are recognised and remembered each week by us. They enjoy giving something back, whether it’s money, running the vacuum round after, or bringing in homemade cakes or quiches.”
Volunteer Lorraine, who has a long complex history of poor mental health including depression, severe anxiety and eating disorders had spent 18 years in hospital. Discharged back into the community just 4 years ago, Lorraine struggled to interact and contribute to the wider community as she suffered from overwhelming anxiety around people, low confidence and was unable to leave the house without a personal assistant. Since starting volunteering at the community café every Thursday, supported by her personal assistant, Lorraine states that her confidence has increased, she is managing her anxiety and she is able to look to the future.
Not only is The Real Junk Food Project preventing food waste, but it’s also creating a social hub and a force for good within the local community. Prologis UK is proud to play a part in such community enterprises through its ‘Space for Good’ programme.