Giving Back this Christmas at The Real Junk Food Project

Giving back to support our local communities is at the very centre of #SBGLIFE. And to empower SBG’ers to give back in meaningful ways we give everyone 16 hours each year to use for volunteering.

Colleagues can use these hours to support any charity or community group which is important to them. We also host a variety of volunteering days throughout the year which colleagues can join to meet new people and learn about different charities.

Last week we headed back to The Real Junk Food Project (TRJFP) in Leeds. TRJFP put sustainability at the heart of what they do as they’re an environmental charity redistributing surplus food from across the food industry, including supermarkets, so it doesn’t go to landfill.

Volunteers of the charity visit supermarkets and restaurants to collect the food they would throw away. This may be because the food is past it’s best before date. After checking the food is safe to eat, the team create ‘Too Good To Go’ boxes which people in need can purchase paying what they can.

The food which can’t be eaten is then composted where possible to prevent it ending up in bins and eventually landfill.

The charity have recently moved warehouses on top of their usual busy workload which meant some extra hands were much needed.

Following the day I asked the team a few questions about what they got up to!

what were your thoughts when you went into the warehouse?

Simon Daniels, Risk & Safer Gambling Operations Manager

“It was truly eye-opening. Seeing it in person was really disappointing. So much food is ordered by shops and supermarkets and just disposed of. If it wasn’t for good causes like TRJFP, this wasted food wouldn’t be donated to people who need it or recycled responsibly into fuel and animal feed.”

Frances Clixby, Research Manager

“I know food waste is big in the UK, but there’s something very different between hearing stats quoted and actually seeing for yourself what just a fraction of these figures looks like in the flesh.

“Crates and crates of perfectly fine bread, that would have otherwise been thrown away, were the first thing I spotted upon entering the warehouse. Then I was struck by the sheer volume of fruit which needed sorting through – I mean, the apples were all Pink Ladies, so really good quality stuff that sells for top value in supermarkets!

“All of this would have gone to waste if it weren’t for TRJFP… It was a real eye opening experience, and I would encourage everyone to get involved with the cause at some point – it really makes you mindful of what you buy, and ensuring that our own food waste is kept to a minimum.”

Craig Goodridge, Operations Manager in Customer Experience

“This is only one warehouse in one town of the UK, so I kept on thinking about how much is wasted in the UK and the number of people who may not have had a meal yesterday, not knowing all this food is here or these schemes exist.”

While volunteering, what jobs were you doing?

Craig Goodridge, Operations Manager in Customer Experience

“Sloppy Fruit – I jumped straight into this job! I thought if I’m here then I need to get stuck in, so I did and had a lot of joy when the job was complete.

“I first had cucumbers to sort from good/bad and put into separate crates. Anyone who has found a cucumber at the back of the fridge will know they don’t grow old gracefully… I then moved onto Apples and sorted these with a bit of lettuce at the end of the day.

“The job wasn’t for the squeamish and you came across so much good fruit that had days of shelf life left but in the eyes of a retailer, they were past it. The day went quickly, and I enjoyed getting stuck in with my colleagues and seeing all the pallets were finished by the end of the day was very satisfying.”

Jason Drewery, Senior Workday Analyst

“We started with cleaning the pallets which were previously used. My group handled this by splitting this up into spraying down each pallet, before moving to the next person to wipe them down thoroughly, before passing to an additional person to re-stack the clean pallets ready to be re-used. There was SOOO many pallets to clean. Just when we thought we were done, there was even more!

“This took us up to lunch (ish).. when we came back, we had the task of emptying out the mouldy bread into a large sack to be re-used and turned into fish food. When I say sack, this isn’t the sort you’d imagine a bin bag, or Santa’s sack. This was bigger than a builders merchants sack that they’d use to deliver a tonne of sand!! – This ended up full of mouldy bread, with their packets being separated into recyclables.”

Simon Daniels, Risk & Safer Gambling Operations Manager

“I spent most of the day sorting through fruit. We managed to save quite a significant amount of fruit that was still edible and could be donated to those in need. It was good to know that this can be used positively amongst all the waste that was no longer fit for consumption. I also helped unpack stale bread that would go to use as fish food and the plastic be recycled, as opposed to the whole lot being sent to landfill.”

What did you take away from this volunteering day?

Jonathan Brook, Test Engineer

“How hard the charity is working to make the absolute most of EVERYTHING donated. What is good to help people in need, is distributed to help those that need help today, but anything that cannot be used today, is adapted to something that helps deliver independent help going forward. It was amazing to see how focused they are on turning everything donated today into a brighter tomorrow for those that need them.”

Craig Goodridge, Operations Manager in Customer Experience

“A huge amount of food is wasted by retailers. We always talk about how much we waste at home but the amount that comes in from supermarkets and the food suppliers is shocking. The key takeaway for me was to share with more people that these schemes exist and try and get more people interested in volunteering and helping those who need the support and food, to get access to it. Made me also think a lot about my choices of food and how much I waste.”

Jason Drewery, Senior Workday Analyst

“It was a great cause to be involved with, and my key takeaway was over-hearing that more bread is wasted every single day than what is sold! If that’s true it really shows the extent of food waste within the industry!”

Simon Daniels, Risk & Safer Gambling Operations Manager

“Just how big the problem is. I am pretty responsible already with my food shopping and rarely waste food. However, I think more can be done on a local level to support initiatives like TRJFP to help the work they do. I’d like to spend my next Volunteer day back with TRJFP.”

Author: Marion Duncan