How one Manchester charity is creating opportunity out of a crisis

As the hospitality industry struggles through this unprecedented crisis caused by coronavirus, many restaurants have made the decision to reduce their hours or even close for the foreseeable future. This means that some have been left with an abundance of fresh food supplies that are at risk of going to waste. 

One Manchester charity is determined to make sure that little to no food goes to waste, by turning it into meals for people who need it.

Donations to food banks are currently down as people who would usually support start to feel the strain

Open Kitchen MCR is a waste food, not for profit organisation formerly known as The Real Junk Food Project. For the past few years it has been working with a huge range of food businesses to source perfectly edible food that will otherwise go to waste and use it to provide meals and food to a range of people. 

Under normal circumstances, they have been operating a waste food catering service to generate income (and stamp out food waste), and this subsidises their work supporting vulnerable people with hot nutritious meals, food and supplies. 

170718 Real Junk Food Project 5

Now they’re starting to be contacted by people who are going to struggle to keep themselves fed during the coronavirus social distancing protocols. The first people affected seem to be those who are currently well, but at high risk due to existing health concerns, and therefore having to self-isolate. 

“As the measures take hold, we imagine there will be a huge number of people affected, including children who would normally receive a free school meal, people in food poverty who would normally visit a food bank or community centre for support, and people who become ill and have a limited network of support around them,” says Corin Bell, the director of Open Kitchen MCR. 

“We are currently in contact with colleagues from Manchester and Greater Manchester authorities, the NHS, and other support organisations, and will help in any way we can with a coordinated response to support people through the crisis. 

“Donations to food banks are currently down as people who would usually support start to feel the strain. However food waste is currently massively on the rise as events are cancelled and businesses and education institutions shut down. So, we’ve decided not to wait. We will absolutely continue to coordinate with the Greater Manchester wide effort to respond to people in crisis in a joined up, coordinated way, but as of this morning we’ve got a lot of food, no catering orders, and lots of people who are going to need our help in the coming weeks and months. 

“We are starting to prepare good ‘home-cooked’ meals, and to portion them out into microwaveable containers. We plan to make and deliver a mix of meals and groceries to people who are struggling.” 

But Open Kitchen MCR needs your help. Here's what you can do:


They need some financial support to deliver this service. If you can offer a donation, please do. Every single penny of funds raised will go to buy supplies needed to deliver the service safely (cleaning supplies, take-away containers, etc), and to support prep and delivery costs. Here’s a link to their Paypal donate page.


If you are a business and you have food that will go to waste, email

They can accept -

Any 'un-prepped' food (i.e. raw ingredients; meat, fish, veg, cheese, milk, bread, etc) that has been stored correctly, whether that be fridge, freezer, or ambient.

Prepped foods (e.g coleslaws or salads that have been made up by the food business) that are chilled and are still suitable for use for the next 48 hours.

Any drinks, snacks or crisps that are packaged, even if they are past best before date.

They cannot accept -

Any ingredients or dishes that have been hot held - e.g. curries, meats, rice, etc that has been cooked and held at a hot serving temperature, as it will not be suitable for reuse.

Any products that are past Use By date.

Pre-prepared sandwiches (because they tend to need using on that day, and they can’t get them delivered in time to be useful).


As the operation grows to support more people, they may also need volunteer chefs and drivers. "We’re going to have to be really cautious about how we work with volunteers," admits Corin "because we need to make sure we’re not adding to the spread of the virus, but if you are fit and healthy, and you have skills that could help, please email"

If you feel like you can help with anything else, please get in touch with the team on or on 07851 080 342.

Read - 'I couldn’t turn a blind eye and keep walking' - how Foodinate is helping the homeless