Having shut its pay-what-you-want cafe, the eco enterprise is crowdfunding its next surplus food venture

During its 50-week stint on Oxford Road, Manchester’s first waste food restaurant stopped 34,339 kilos (just over 34 metric tonnes) of food from going to landfill, and served 29,128 meals. What’s more, its pay-as-you-feel concept allowed people from all economic backgrounds to access nutritional dishes - truly democratising dining - and its fine dining evenings attracted many esteemed chefs.

News of the restaurant’s closure, then, was disappointing to regular customers, volunteers and staff alike. But it was only ever meant to be temporary, and the lease on the Bruntwood-owned property expired this month. 

RJFP hopes the new project will double the amount of food rescued from landfill.

It’s not all doom and gloom, however, as Real Junk Food Project (RJFP) - the community interest company behind the venue - has announced its next waste food venture. In another first for Manchester, RJFP will work with social housing provider Onward Homes to launch a new waste food catering business.

2017 09 21 Real Junk Food Project 5
The Real Junk Food restaurant has closed on Oxford Road

Named Open Kitchen MCR, the enterprise (again non-for-profit) will be located in a currently unused commercial kitchen within Onward Homes’ Chorlton-based offices. While the mission remains the same - ‘rescue food that would otherwise go to waste, transform it into beautiful meals and dishes, and support everyone in our city in accessing great food’ - RJFP hopes the new project will double the amount of food rescued from landfill.

Rather than pay-as-you-feel, Open Kitchen MCR will offer a range of pricing packages; meaning corporate customers will be subsidising RJFP’s work with community and charity partners (including helping vulnerable people into training and back-to-work support) as well choosing the most sustainable catering possible for hot meals, buffets, canapés and more.

170718 Real Junk Food Project 2
Real Junk Food Project hopes to rescue double the amount of food with Open Kitchen MCR

While upcycling, making do and mending wherever possible, RJFP still needs to “fix up a large commercial kitchen, replace some pieces of kit, buy smaller equipment needed to run a catering business and get some education, engagement and marketing materials designed and made.” To that end, it will launch a £50,000 Crowdfunder on Wednesday 29 August 

Considering the restaurant campaign raised almost double its target, prospects are good - but the eco warriors will soon be announcing a tempting range of rewards should you need any more motivation… 

Talking of which, why did they take the plunge into catering? 

Lowering our city’s carbon footprint

For every tonne of food that we stop from going to landfill, we stop 4.2 tonnes of CO2e from being emitted. Food waste rotting in landfill releases huge amounts of methane, which is 25 times worse for climate change than carbon dioxide. The lowest carbon, most sustainable thing we can do with food that will otherwise go to waste is put it in a belly, not a bin.

A recent study by the UN FAO showed that the carbon footprint of wasted food currently stands at 3.3 gigatonnes; meaning that, if food waste was a country, it would be the third highest carbon emitter on the planet after the US and China.

Helping businesses and organisations to lower their carbon footprint

The catering offer from Open Kitchen MCR will be unique in our city and will be the lowest carbon, most sustainable catering it’s possible to order. By offering this service we will be able to help more businesses and organisations in Manchester and beyond to lower their carbon footprints and make more sustainable choices around food.


Supporting vulnerable people across the city

We have LOVED running the Real Junk Food Manchester restaurant, but are very aware that not everyone can get into the city centre. By starting a catering social enterprise we will be able to produce more meals, and work with charity and community partners to provide more meals to more people across the city.

Supporting more people to access training and to get back into work

Over the last year running the restaurant, and for eighteen months before that as a pop-up operation, we have worked with literally hundreds of volunteers. Working in a fixed location in our city centre restaurant has allowed more people to come and volunteer with us, and has allowed us to start to work with support organisations from around the city region to offer volunteer placements.

We’ve become aware that we are in a unique position to offer vocational training and back to work support, so want to build on this and offer more structured training and support to people who have become marginalised. We believe that we can help more people to train, learn new skills, build confidence and find work in the food, drink and hospitality sector.

Trialling new innovative projects

Having a larger commercial kitchen will allow us to develop a range of pilot projects around reducing food waste, supporting vulnerable adults with more nutritious meals, training and skills, and much more.

Find out more about Real Junk Food Manchester on their website.