Almost three years ago we stumbled across The Real Junk Food Project in Brighton, where we enjoyed an amazing ‘Pay-As-You-Feel’ Sunday roast. We were completely blown away by the concept of tackling food waste and food poverty through a pop up café. So we thought we’d give it a go!
At Surplus Kitchen we have discovered it is now easier than ever before to access surplus supermarket food. Many of the major supermarket chains have started initiatives to give away unsold fresh produce to local charities and community groups.
For example, Tesco works with Fareshare Foodcloud to recruit charities and community groups, linking them with their local store and alerting them to surplus food items at the end of each day. Fareshare Foodcloud now operates in 800 Tesco stores nationwide and has more than 3,000 groups signed up, including Surplus Kitchen.
At Surplus Kitchen we collect from Tesco and M&S once a week and we get a large monthly collection direct from a Fareshare depot in Birmingham. Since starting our project in January 2016 we have found that local supermarkets, independent stores and other food outlets are increasingly aware of their need to reduce waste and the importance of redistributing food to those who need it. All you have to do it seems is ask… and you shall receive all manner of wacky and wonderful surplus goods!
After safely stashing our surplus bounty in a selection of second-hand fridges and freezers the work begins in earnest with Pinterest often providing us with recipes that match a hotchpotch of leftover ingredients.
Inevitably, we have to supplement our surplus food with some bought items, usually fresh herbs and spices, in order to produce super tasty meals. But then we cook. We have an incredible team of volunteers who help prepare and cook the food, set up tables, serve, wash up and pack down.
Surplus Kitchen pops up to serve Sunday lunch every fortnight at a church hall in Stafford. Typically our long banquet tables are filled with an eclectic mix of church-goers, folk from the local community and an increasing number of students, young families and ‘eco-types’ who have found us on Facebook.
From the very start of the project we wanted to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere for all who turned up. We believe everyone should have the dignity of a good sit-down meal with friends.
Since opening we have saved more than five tonnes of food going in the bin and fed over 3,000 bellies!
To find out more about Surplus Kitchen, check out their Facebook page or find them on Instagram and Twitter. Surplus Kitchen is run by Matt and Rebekah Long, Jonathan and Gemma Cherry. All images by Jonathan Cherry.