Upcycling produce at ‘food waste’ restaurant

Real Junk Food restaurant

Real Junk Food Manchester

Two major projects that make use of discarded produce as part of the fight against food waste are kicking off in the UK - one research initiative that looks to re-use wasted food and analyse its nutritional content and a novel restaurant which upcycles unwanted produce by transforming it into tasty dishes for diners in Manchester.

Thanks to a generous tribe of crowdfunding backers, Real Junk Food cafe and restaurant will be opening soon in Manchester using food that would have been thrown away to create nutritious meals sold on a pay-as-you-feel (P-A-Y-F) basis.

For the last year, Real Junk Food project has been running pop-up events all over the city but now can open a base for six months after securing £20,000 from its crowdfunding initiative. The money will be used to buy a mobile kitchen unit that can moved in and out of any space, giving the organisers flexibility over where they serve in the city.

The social enterprise is tackling food waste at the root by sourcing produce thrown away by supermarkets, grocers, farms, allotments and other suppliers and has got the support of celebrity chef and food waste campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

“All the meals will be made from 100 percent food that otherwise would have gone to waste. It's all about inclusion, community and sustainability. As well as providing great meals, we raise awareness, knowledge and skills about food waste, sustainable food and healthy diets. We want to make our food system more accessible,” say the organisers.

“P-A-Y-F means that customers can offer a financial donation to the project of what they feel a meal is worth, give whatever they can, or can recognise the value of a meal by donating their time, energy and skills to the project.”

“By sourcing food that would go to waste, the project intercepts a huge quantity of basic, healthy ingredients, offering access to good food, and further bucking the trend of the most vulnerable in our society being offered heavily processed, tinned or dried meals.”

Research into nutritional value of waste

Scientist at Loughborough University are exploring ways of reducing food waste as part of a new two-year £800,000 project investigating how food manufacturing system can be improved to reduce waste.

Funding comes from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and this is a joint collaboration between Loughborough and the universities of York and Nottingham.  

Researchers will explore how to better utilise unavoidable food supply chain wastes (UFSCW) as a bio-resource, including reusing the nutritional content within food waste to make products suitable for human consumption.

Around 9.9 million tonnes of food waste and food by-products are generated per year in the food industry alone, of which 56 per cent is considered unavoidable. Often produce is lost after harvest at different points along the supply chain, including distribution channels and the consumption chain.

Professor Shahin Rahimifard from Loughborough’s School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering and director of the University’s Centre for Sustainable Manufacturing and Recycling Technologies, says current strategies for dealing with UFSCW are rudimentary and of low value: these include incineration and where possible; animal feed and bedding; compositing; ploughing back into soil and sometimes landfill.

“This is very exciting research which could see for the first time the creation of new food products for human consumption by upgrading the nutritional content in food waste. It could have a significant impact on global food security,” he says.

Project results will be assessed to determine any potential impact for the UK food manufacturing sector.
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