THE DISRUPTOR The Real Junk Food Project
‘It’s not about getting free food; it’s about valuing the resources and the time and energy it goes into creating (it).’ So says Adam Smith, the visionary who established the Real Junk Food Cafe in Leeds that started what is now becoming a worldwide phenomenon. Simply, they accept food donations from pretty much anywhere (including food banks) and serve it to the general public, regardless of whether it’s past it’s supposed expiration date or not. But they don’t stop there - customers can pay what they feel and it doesn’t have to be in the form of money. For example in the early days one customer rewired the cafe premises in exchange for food. Adam told me that they’re already planning their exit strategy. He told me ‘we’re not a success and we’re not about celebrating our achievements. It will be a success when we don’t need to be here anymore.’
To find out more visit http://therealjunkfoodproject.org/
THE PIONEER Community Food Centres Canada
Spearheaded by Nick Saul, along with a great team, these guys are building good food communities across Canada as a healthy alternative to traditional food aid provision.
Refreshingly, they don’t claim to be solving household food insecurity, as some providers of food aid claim. Instead, as well as working hard to deliver truly effective programmes, they focus on raising awareness of the need for national policy change to increase household food security and to work towards a healthy and sustainable food system. Their ethos is that good food has the power to build health and community; summed up in their strapline ‘good food is just the beginning’. Their online knowledge exchange, The Pod, is accessible to all and is packed full of resources and modules related to the great work that they do.
To find out more visit http://cfccanada.ca/
THE GAME CHANGER Closing the Hunger Gap
‘Closing the Hunger Gap’ is a new US network representing food banks , following a conference by the same name in 2013. The network has been set up to help food banks incorporate community food security strategies into their work. Their priorities include positioning food banks as health institutions and advocating for policy and funding conditions that support community food security. Suzanne Babb from Why Hunger, one of the members of the network’s national leadership team, told me that ‘there is a need to change the narrative around food poverty and that’s what the network is about’. It’s early stages for Closing the Hunger Gap and as a national network saying something different in the US, I believe it’s well worth keeping an eye on.
To find out more visit http://thehungergap.org/
THE CAMPAIGNER Freedom 90
OK, so this is a small campaign group rather than a food organisation. Freedom 90 was started by food bank volunteers in Ontario, Canada who were sick and tired of handing out more and more free food to people but seeing the situation getting worse rather than better. When starting out as volunteers they expected their roles to be temporary. When they realised that the problem of hunger in their communities wasn’t going away they started Freedom 90 with the aim of finally being able to retire by the time they each turn 90 years old. Their charter details what they’re about and what they think needs to happen. In the UK effort needs to be put into food poverty related advocacy work at all levels (see my report Involving Charitable Food Providers in Advocacy Efforts) and I love the fact that a group of food bank volunteers have stood up and began to speak out with a really clear message.
To find out more visit http://www.freedom90.ca/index.html
THE INNOVATOR Alexandra Rose Charities
Back to the UK, ARC is a small, traditional and long established charity that has recently entered into the world of what in the US is called Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives. The charity is focusing all their efforts on the development and expansion of their Rose Vouchers scheme - a scheme that draws both from the FINI schemes in the US (see Wholesome Wave as a great example) but also the Healthy Start voucher scheme in the UK. Children’s centres
identify families who could benefit from the scheme and provide them with weekly vouchers (£3 per child under 4 and £6 per child under 1) that they can redeem at participating local street markets for fruit and veg. Currently operating in two London boroughs (Lambeth and Hackney) they are currently exploring roll-out into a couple of other UK cities. ARC are at the start of a really interesting journey with this scheme, offering a healthy alternative to traditional food aid provision and increasing fruit and veg consumption whilst supporting the local economy.
To find out more visit http://www.alexandrarosecharities.org.uk/