The Real Junk Food Project is, put simply, cooking with a difference. It takes food “waste” destined for landfills – thousands of tonnes since 2013 – and chefs turn into delicious dishes, sold on a ‘pay as you feel’ basis, and supplied for free to schools and community groups.
However, this innovative concept hasn’t come without controversy. Earlier this year, its founder Adam Smith received an expected visit from West Yorkshire Trading Standards and now faces prosecution for “attempting to supply the public with food past its sell-by-date”.
WYTSS said it found more 444 items, which were a cumulative total of 6,345 days past the use-by dates, at one of the charity’s “share houses” in Leeds, which receives unwanted food from supermarkets, wholesalers and farms. TRJFP also has two more premises in Sheffield and Birmingham.
Smith – a former drug addict turned professional chef – was told in a letter that “offences may have been committed” under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, as well as Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013. He was invited to be interviewed under caution.
Our founder – Adam, is under caution by West Yorkshire Trading Standards for this!Tonight, TRJFP Leeds will be feeding…
“I was told we were making food available that was past its use-by date,” said Smith, who was named as one of the world’s ‘Top 40 Most Influential People’ by AskMen. “That’s the whole point. That’s what we’ve done for four years.
“We’ve fed more than one million people worldwide, with food that’s past its given use-by date, but not one person has ever been sick. We make food safe for human consumption. It’s simple, and it works.
“We’ve never hid what we do. Food doesn’t know what day it is, yet they’re going to take me to court? It’s my name on the charge, not The Real Junk Food Project. I probably shouldn’t say too much about it as I could be going to court. Watch this space.”
West Yorkshire Trading Standards said it could not comment on the detail of an ongoing investigation.
Smith, speaking at a dinner catered by TRJFP for the International Network of Street Papers‘ annual conference in Manchester, started the innovative project in December 2013. With a manifesto promising “to feed bellies, not bins”, TRJFP has grown from a single pay-as-you-feel cafe in Leeds to a network of more than 120 cafes all across the world.
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It has fed 1.2 million people in need worldwide, and Smith claims the concept has saved 2,000 tonnes of food “waste” from landfill. “It’s a lot, I know,” Smith said. “But I don’t see it as a measure of success. I see it as a measure of a global issue. Success will be when the cafes close.”