If the thought of food waste doesn’t make your mouth water, think again. Rebekah (Bex), Matt, Gemma and Jonathan, a group of four local friends, started The Surplus Kitchen just over a year ago. Inspired by The Real Junk Food Project (a network of ‘pay as you feel’ cafes around the UK that use food that would otherwise end up in landfill), they created a pop up food waste café.
So far, they have saved a staggering 3,607 kg (that’s over 3 tonne) from landfill.
Twice a month, Sunday lunch is served from 12pm in a church hall in Stafford and meals cost just £6 for an adult. A Pay It Forward scheme is also in effect with guests being able to pay for an extra meal that can be claimed back for free by anyone. This ensures there is good food available to everyone.
The Surplus Kitchen team serve up meals in a warm and welcoming atmosphere, using food that would otherwise be destined for waste. The ingredients come from a variety of sources including FareShare in Birmingham, a couple of local supermarkets and the community garden where Matt works.
Bex plans the menu with the arrival of the last delivery at 9pm on Wednesday and a choice of meat or vegetarian main course and gluten and dairy-free options is always offered. On Friday, the prep and pre-cook begins with a team of seven volunteers which continues from 8am on Sunday until doors open at 12pm. People volunteer for a number of reasons, from a love of cooking, to the social aspect to an interest in food waste.
The pop up café regularly attracts more than 100 customers and in the next 6 months they plan to cater for two weddings and various events, which will all raise more money for the various local Restore Stafford charities. In the words of one visitor, “It’s a really innovative menu. There isn’t a restaurant in Stafford where you could eat like this.”
The Surplus Kitchen has been awarded best newcomer at the Stafford Green Awards and they have big plans for the future including creating a more permanent set-up, perhaps with street vans, to reach a wider audience.
Gemma sums up the philosophy of The Surplus Kitchen team. “We want to continue to highlight the issue of waste food and keep educating our community on the ways that they can reduce waste and in turn reduce food poverty. It is so important that we give people the opportunity to meet each other and that we create space for our community to interact and communicate – where better to do this than around the dinner table with good, affordable food.”