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Feeding Bellies Not Bins!

7 July 2015
Feeding Bellies Not Bins!
Since their first café opened in Armley, The Real Junk Food Project has been taking over Leeds one postcode at a time and they have recently launched the City Junk-tion which takes residency within Santiago Bar in the Grand Arcade. Here the City Junk-tion team operates a pay as you feel food service Thursday through till Sunday after opening in May to both local and national media buzz.

This excitement spurs from the rapid expansion of the project, with the City Junk-tion being the first café to open in a central city location. Since then the space has invited many customers and volunteers into its social excitement and last Thursday the team hosted their first Binner Party.

Binner Party - Article 1

The aim of the Binner Party was to feed as many people as many courses as possible using only intercepted food while operating on the same ‘pay as you feel’ mentality as all TRJFP cafes. These cafes, like the City Junk-tion, have become real community landmarks feeding mouths from every sector of society using ‘junk’ food which would have landed in landfills instead of hungry bellies. Speaking to Kerry Murphy, one of the co-directors of the project, she expresses the importance of the ‘pay as you feel’ system which sees skills and attributes as just as appreciated as monetary donations, telling Leeds Living:

We see every skill as valuable to the project: sweeping floors is just as important as designing websites. Everyone is equal, you’re hungry... we’ll feed you. It’s as simple as that.

Arriving at the Binners Party I was warmly greeted by a smiling volunteer who made sure me and my group were quickly seated. Once comfortable we were given a rundown of the night’s events including the intercepted food feast and live folk music from Miranda Arieh, as well as explanations of the food donations that had led to the creation of the evening’s menu. The Binner party menu offered those looking for some ethical eating a range of options and special attention had been taken to make sure that the menu catered for everyone, something particularly important to vegetarian head chef and founder, Adam Smith.

Binner Party - Article 2

Soon the smell from the kitchen began to waft through the bar as people settled down with their drinks and the festive atmosphere meant the party was already in full swing as plates began to emerge from the kitchen. Kicking it all off was a generous starter of tomato bruschetta with bread being donated from the Leeds Bread Co-Op and the tomatoes a result of a mass delivery from a local wholesalers. The bruschetta, which had been expertly toasted for the perfect crunch, was accompanied by what seemed like a whole punnet of tomatoes meaning expectations were high as the main courses were dished out. The choices for the main event comprised of mussel stew with focaccia, vegetable lasagne (vegetarian) and cauliflower curry with pilau rice (vegan). Though the choices may seem modest, the food served was hearty, tasty and well suited to the cosy and relaxed surroundings of Santiago bar. Nestled in the corner of the bar was a table bountiful with sweet treats whose donor remains a mysterious figure remaining to be known only as the uncle of an ex Leeds football player. The feel good vibe at the event was infectious, and with full tables both inside the bar and lining the sides of the Arcade it was clear the organisers had created another success story.

Binner Party - Article 3

When The Real Junk Food Project started in Leeds in 2013, with the ethos of equality and the will to change food equality in the city, founder Adam could never have envisioned the huge support and sustenance his project would receive and he expressed his gratitude when addressing Binner Party goers during his speech. Now more than two years later TRJFP has gone from strength to strength with twelve cafes already open in Leeds alone and two more in the pipeline, with branches working under the project opening up all over the U.K. It is clear that the Real Junk Food Project has a strong social and environmental message running through the veins of its operational heart. Not only do its founders seek to change people’s perceptions of food and how they interact with it, but also help the most vulnerable in society who are often ‘food insecure’ and go without while mountains of perfectly good produce is wasted.

The power of The Real Junk Food project and events like the Binner Party lie in their ability to make you carefully consider how nonsensical our food system. When tucking into my not only edible but also truly tasty grub at the Binner Party the question of why food which is not only still high in nutritional value but also an extremely valuable component within a delicious meal is stripped of its marketable and monetary value and thrown to the bins was extremely pertinent. But thankfully the masterminds and activists at TRJFP are continuing to wage their war on waste with their radical approach to conquering food waste and this message in spreading quickly with their network now expanding, with cafes in planned in South Africa, Australia, Israel and Berlin. After the success of the premiering Binner Party, the team at TRJFP plan to hold the same again in August following their street party at the Armley café on 26th July. Before then, the City Junk-tion will be serving at Santiago bar Thursday through till Sunday, allowing people to enjoy a moral meal in a chilled out setting without breaking the bank. Keep update on events at the City Junk-tion on Facebook and Twitter.

More details of the next Binner Party: City Junk-tion

Becky Peartree is our resident food writer and is in her final year at Leeds University where she studies English Literature.