Friday, 15 May 2015

Guest Post - Social Impact of TRJFPB

With just 7 days to go to reach our crowdfunder target to bring a 7-day PAYF cafe to Brighton, Jess Hooper considers the social impact of TRJFPB... 

With one week to go to reach our target of £15, 000 to fund our waste food "Pay As You Feel" cafe seven days a week (and a whopping £13K already pledged!)...I felt it was time we addressed the social importance of The Real Junk Food Project Brighton.

You may have noticed that our crowd funder comes at a time of economic instability and poverty rises in the UK. The huge success of the Green Party here was somewhat overshadowed by the nightmarish reality of a further five years of blue austerity in a desperate bid to "save the economy". 

And at what cost? 

The cost of shelter, food, education, and health care. Homelessness in the UK rose by 50% since the coalition came to power, a fact pushed aside along with the criminalization of being homeless or helping a homeless person on the street. In 2013, over 900,000 people came to rely on food banks; and child poverty sky rocketed to 22% this year . Many children frequently go to school without breakfast.  Officials claim that "for the first time since the Second World War the poor are no longer affording to eat sufficient calories", leading to an overburdened health care system faced with malnourishment from food poverty. Yet large corporate supermarkets try to prosecute the hungry for "thieving" food from bins , benefits are cut whilst employment plummets, and the health and safety system wastes edible food whilst people go hungry.

It's time we stopped wasting energy on blame, and instead we must invest our time in our community, in caring for each other. The Real Junk Food Project Brighton goes beyond saving waste food. It's about grass roots social change in our community, because food unites us. Food is sociable, cultural, political, powerful. Food is crucial to our being, and sharing a meal (particularly during times of hardship) is good for the soul. It brings us together when we really need each other.

Our community cafe

For those of you who have visited our community cafe on a Friday, you may not have noticed the number of people without homes sitting amongst you. You may not have noticed the highly educated, the long term unemployed, the elderly, the students, the businessmen, the new parent, the social workers, but they are all there. Sitting together enjoying a meal. Why? Because in our cafe every person is equal, every person is valued, and most importantly everyone regardless of their upbringing or "social status" , in that moment, is entitled to the same opportunity -to access healthy tasty food. What you probably did notice were hundreds of people enthusiastically talking about what meal was cooked today, and discussing where that food came from. You probably noticed volunteers beaming with pride as they dished out plate upon plate of food which they helped to intercept, prepare, and cook. You probably noticed the atmosphere, and the line of people queuing eagerly for their food. And the best part: our " Pay As You Feel" ethos means no one leaves hungry, and no one leaves feeling burdened by the cost of their meal. 

So now imagine for a minute that we had a "Pay As You Feel" community cafe running seven days a week. 

Imagine if we could access the poorest communities in Brighton? Imagine if we could make it so that children in our city didn't have to go to school without breakfast? 

Imagine if we had a space that broke down class divide? A place where the homeless wouldn't be moved on or arrested for falling asleep.

Imagine if we could run workshops to teach people how to cook healthy meals with minimal ingredients, and how to rely upon their senses so they never again had to waste edible food so called "unsafe" due to an arbitrary sell-by-date label? 

The system is failing our people in catastrophic ways, so let's change it. Let's REALLY feed the world.

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