Saturday, 4 April 2015

Guest Post: TRJFP Edinburgh

From left: Alleas, Charlie & Donna, Co Directors of TRJFP Edinburgh

Source: TRJFP Edinburgh

Today we have the first in our series of guest posts highlighting projects tackling food waste in Brighton & beyond! First up we have Charlie from TRJFP Edinburgh... 

On 1 March, The Real Junk Food Project Edinburgh opened its borrowed doors to the public. The Union of Genius cafe in the middle of the Old Town had offered its support from the start, and we held them to their generous word by holding a Pay As You Feel pop-up in their tiny venue. There was a three-course menu including carrot soup, tomato bruschetta, pumpkin sweet and sour, potato cakes with beetroot chutney, and a mountain of cakes; around 80 people packed in to eat throughout the afternoon, making sure everything that was cooked was eaten.

TRJFP Edinburgh first menu! Source: TRJFP Edinburgh
We have been overwhelmed by the support for the project, from the staff at the Union to local shops to our eaters and their donations, which has made our progress so rapid and almost unhindered. Indeed, the project only became feasible on the back of such spontaneous support. Having picked up on the Leeds project in October, I mentioned the idea to Donna when we met at a community meal she runs and her enthusiasm for the project was (and remains!) unreserved. Donna’s experience as a food and hygiene trainer and her involvement in community food projects would prove essential.

Initially, though, we stalled: how could we get our heads around all the sources of waste in the city? Who were the key contacts? Were we tackling food waste or food poverty? Was this or the Food Cycle model the way to go?

We decided with the New Year, buoyed by the momentum and vitality of the expanding network, to launch TRJFP Edinburgh and see what happened - it gained similar momentum. There is palpable indignation surrounding food waste and an appetite for addressing it, and the TRJFP model has an appealing simplicity to it. Edinburgh is a city big enough to create a movement and small enough for that movement to appear overnight - there is a lot of enthusiasm for food and for projects building sustainability.

Tasty bruschetta ready to be eaten. Source: TRJFP Edinburgh

What is perhaps less clear is the level of food poverty. There can be no underestimating the two-fold challenge of achieving what we set out to, and what the network represents: finding the key sources of waste and reducing them; and building an inclusive community around the issue and around food we create. For us, the two are inextricable.

As we all know, there is a deep disconnect from our food system in the UK and food waste and food poverty are symptomatic and symbolic of that, seeing food as a disposable commodity. There is also a disconnect between people within that system - i.e. all of us - and we want to build a mixed demographic community that can start to connect consumers from all walks of life and encourage them to see food as a resource in a different way. Already among our co-directors and volunteers we have a diversity of ages, backgrounds, interests and economic situations and it is our main priority to extend that to our customers too. We have had a lot of offers of diverse venues - restaurants, church halls, community centres - for pop-up cafés and are considering the value of various locations compared to a fixed one for achieving this aim.

Intercepted food! Source: TRJFP Edinburgh
We also want to connect the dots further up the supply chain; the scale of the issue is almost unfathomable. So far we have collected food from community bakeries and greengrocers, gleaned from a local farm, intercepted surplus from food projects and food banks, and we are delighted to be making those realistic connections as a starting point.

The backing we have received from the Grow Stronger project Donna has been working for has been indispensable. Unfortunately, we recently found out the funding they received and we jointly re-applied for will not be extended - a huge shame, but also an interesting position for TRJFP. We are hopeful that we still have the structures and support in place to be running full-time before the end of the summer.

One step at a time though - this weekend we are ‘popping up’ at a different venue with a different vibe and are excited to make it another regular event. Again, the bulk of the food will be from local producers and all made from fresh by Donna and our amazing chef, Kenny. We also want this to be about eating well, and the longer-term social and environmental benefits of that. If it means letting some ready-meals and some donuts go to landfill, we will grit our teeth. We want to be changemakers not firefighters.

Charlie Hanks, co-director

Thank you to Charlie and TRJFP Edinburgh for a great guest post! We will be hearing from more projects and individuals as we continue our series of guest posts as part of our Crowdfunder campaign. Until then have a lovely Saturday, 


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