New restaurants in the UK are taking edible waste from grocery stores, wholesalers, and restaurants and transforming it into gourmet, pay-what-you-want meals. A Bristol-based café called Skipchen, along with 14 other UK restaurants, are re-sourcing one of our society’s biggest sources of waste, and doing their part for world hunger at the same time.
Skipchen and the 14 other cafés (along with many more in developmental stages) are members of The Real Junk Food Project, an organization that seeks to “bring about a radical change in our food system.” (Source). The restaurant, as far as I can tell, takes their name from a combination of “skip,” the name for grocery store food dumpsters, and “kitchen.” They plan all their meals based on the ingredients they find or receive as donations that day, and operate on a pay-what-you-feel system that has two-fold benefits: firstly, it motivates consumers to think about the real value of their food; and secondly, it frees up those who do not have the monetary resources to pay for standard restaurant fare, and allows them to pay with their skills and talents.
Above: The Skipchen kitchen; a recent menu.
Let's talk about food waste. In the United States, at least, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that food waste represents over a quarter of municipal waste. Globally, about one third of all food is wasted or thrown away before it can be eaten. How much food is that, you ask? 1.3 billion tons every year. And just think, so much of that food is still edible! Meanwhile, 785 million people, or almost 11% of the world’s population, will go hungry this year, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. We’re already producing enough food to feed everyone; in fact, if we reduced global food waste and food loss by half (just half!), and were able to properly redistribute those resources, no one would go hungry this year.
The article that inspired my post (thanks for sending it my way, @nicolejb!!) highlights the fact that, in certain situations such as high-end restaurants, people are happy to accept menus that are limited to what’s locally and seasonally available. But take the same consumer to a grocery store, and they feel frustrated when exotic or out-of-season products like fresh berries, mangos, oranges, and exotic seafood aren’t available. People (especially Americans, I find) want unlimited choice. But the fact is, narrowing down that choice could help save so much lost and wasted food!
I’m so excited reading about groups like The Real Junk Food Project. In fact, I would love to get involved in a local organization that aims to reduce food waste, and put a fraction of those billions of tons to good use in somebody’s tummy. I’m living in NYC; do you guys have any ideas? There’s gotta be so many possibilities here – this city has literally everything. Anyway, thanks for reading this sort of long and soapbox-y post haha; here’s hoping that more and more people get educated and passionate about reducing the amount of food we throw away as a society!