Kevin Mackay is standing in front of hundreds of pairs of eyes at Lawns Park primary school in Leeds, all trained on a bright orange stuffed fox called Fred. “So Fred, which of these foods did supermarkets throw away?” He gestures to the giant pictures projected onto the back of the school hall: a cucumber, a tub of hot chocolate, a bunch of bananas. At each item, Fred raises his hand and the children’s eyes grow a bit wider. “That’s right, all these foods were thrown away by supermarkets,” Kevin says. Then he asks the children: “What could be done with this food instead?”
A boy in year five pipes up: “Feed the people in the world who don’t have enough.”
Kevin nods and explains: the cucumber was thrown away because it was in a box of 40, but one went mouldy. The tub of hot chocolate had a special barcode for a supermarket promotion, but went in the bin after the promotion ended because that was cheaper than changing all the barcodes. The banana was too straight, or too small, or too brown to convene with supermarket standards or EU regulations, so it joined the others on the scrapheap.
The children make faces and start murmuring to one another. They don’t need to be taught that this kind of waste is unacceptable, especially not in Leeds, where the number of people relying on food parcels rose 25 per cent between April 2014 and April 2015. Half of those receiving parcels were children.
But it’s not good enough that these children have an innate sense of the injustice of food poverty in the most wasteful country in Europe. Kevin’s on a mission to give them the tools to combat waste at home and in their own neighbourhoods. “Our end game is to stop food waste and the best way to do that is through grass roots education,” he says.
Kevin is the first full time member of staff at Fuel For School, the educational arm of food charity The Real Junk Food Project. He was recruited by an old school friend, Adam Smith, who founded the project in 2013. Together with an army of volunteers, they want to eliminate food waste by intercepting food discarded by supermarkets and other businesses and redistributing it to cafes, schools and their own “anti-supermarket” where people can pay as they feel, in money, resources or time, for food.
Fuel For School, the project’s educational initiative, is quite new. It’s been just four weeks since Kevin quit his role as a primary school teacher and got on the road with the giant stuffed fox, and he already knows food waste is far more than just an environmental issue. When he started the programme in his own class at Asquith Primary a few months earlier, five children who never had breakfast started eating before class in the morning. Their behaviour and concentration improved. Fuel for School has big plans to get breakfast to every single hungry schoolchild in the country. Why shouldn’t these kids eat, when 10 million tonnes of food get wasted in the UK every year?
First, they need the staff.
“We have the food but we don’t have the resources to get it to schools every day,” Kevin says. “That was probably the most difficult decision that we had to take, that it would be one delivery to each school each week, because we do have families who could use this food every single day.”
Volunteers are needed to go and collect food discarded or donated by supermarkets, sort it and get it out for people to eat before it goes off. Eager to be seen to be tackling their own waste, supermarkets frequently tout “zero waste to landfill” policies in PR exercises. But when they fail to sell produce, they divert it to anaerobic digestion plants that turn it into energy, or dump it on food charities burdened with more edible food than they can process on tiny budgets. In the two days before Kevin visits Lawns Park, the project will intercept a record 75 tonnes of waste, the equivalent of 37,500 meals. Panniers of jars and tins are stacked high in the warehouse, making a mockery of the value of food in a city where people still can’t afford to eat.
But households, not supermarkets, are responsible for over half of all food waste in the UK, which makes the education side of Fuel For School crucial.
Lawns Park is the 33rd primary school to join Fuel for School’s roster, which means they’ll get eight crates of food waste from the Real Junk Food Project warehouse every week to use in lessons and breakfast clubs. The rest goes on a market stall at the school gates, where parents can take as much as they like in exchange for donations of time, money and resources. They also get two workshops a year and an education pack that Kevin is putting together to teach children the value of food so that they can tackle waste in their own homes.
Food and drink news
Food and drink news
1/27 Food School
Kids celebrate Food School graduation with James Martin – a campaign launched by Asda to educate young people on where food comes from. New research has revealed that children across the UK just aren’t stepping up to the plate when it comes to simple facts about the food they eat – with almost half of children under eight not knowing that eggs come from chickens
2/27 ‘Do-It-Yourself’ restaurant
To encourage more people to cook and eat together, IKEA has launched The Dining Club in Shoreditch – a fully immersive ‘Do-It-Yourself’ restaurant – which will open its doors from 10 - 25 September 2016. Members of the public can book to host a brunch, lunch or dinner party for up to 20 friends and family. Supported by their very own sous chef and maître de, the host and their guests will orchestrate an intimate dining experience where cooking together is celebrated and eating together is inspirational
Mikael Buck / IKEA
3/27 Ping Pong menu with a twist
Gatwick Airport has teamed up with London dim sum restaurant Ping Pong to create a limited edition menu with a distinctly British twist; including a Full English Bao and Beef Wellington Puff, to celebrate the launch of the airport’s new route to Hong Kong
4/27 Food photography masterclass
To celebrate the 2016 Sony World Photography Awards, photographers share tips on how to create an award winning food photography using the full-frame, palm-sized interchangeable lens Sony α7R II camera. A series of stunning food photography images capture the exquisite, mouth-watering detail of the dinner table close up. Tapping into the growing trend of food photography, renowned food photographer Hugh Johnson has shared his step-by-step guide to capturing incredible gastronomic imagery. Winning and shortlisted photographers will be exhibited at Somerset House from 22 April – 8 May
5/27 Zizzi unveil the Ma’amgharita
Unique pizza art has been created by Zizzi in celebration of the Queen’s 90th birthday. The pizza features the queen in an iconic pose illustrated with fresh and tasty Italian ingredients on a backdrop of the Union Jack
6/27 Blue potatoes make a comeback
Blue potatoes, once a staple part of British potato crops, are back on the menu thanks to a Cambridge scientist turned-organic farmer and Farmdrop, an online marketplace that lets people buy direct from local farms. Cambridge PhD graduate-turned farmer, Adrian Izzard has used traditional growing techniques at Wild Country Organics to produce the colourful spuds, packed with healthy cell-protecting anthocyanin, which had previously disappeared from UK plates when post-war farmers were pushed towards higher-yielding varieties
7/27 France plans to usurp Scotland as the home of the world's best whisky
France is planning to usurp Scotland’s reputation as the home of the world’s best whisky, fired by a growing national obsession with the drink. According to a study by retail consultants Bonial, the French drink more whisky than any other country – an average of 2.15 litres a year, compared to 1.8 litres in second-placed Uruguay and the US in third on 1.4 litres
Bloomberg via Getty Images
8/27 Chocolate-filled extravaganza
The London Contemporary Orchestra prepares for one of a kind performance in iconic St Luke’s in Old Street. After unique collaboration with Cadbury Dairy Milk they've produced an incredible multi-sensory live event, which will go ahead on 23 February, pairing the sound music with the taste of chocolate (the event is free to the public!)
¬© Jane Stockdale, ¬© Jane S
9/27 Creme Egg Cafe in London
The Cadbury Creme Egg cafe has opened on Greek Street in Soho, London and it welcomes everyone on the weekends, until 6 March 2016. The menu offers most delicious creme egg toasties and cakes and you may want to jump in to the ball pool for some more fun (available for children and adults!)
Cadbury Creme Egg / Joel Anderso
10/27 Cronut inventor Dominique Ansel to open first bakery in London
The inventor of the Cronut – a croissant and doughnut hybrid – is set to launch his first bakery in London. Dominique Ansel announced that his eponymous bakery will open at some point in 2016 on Instagram by posting an image of one of his famous pastries decorated with a Union Jack flag. The chef said he was “thrilled” about his new venture
11/27 Eating cereal may not be the healthiest way to start the day
The old saying goes that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so many of us do as we are told and grab a bowl of cereal before we head out the door. But an expert has warned that while many cereals boxes claim their contents are the perfect start to the day, many are packed full of sugar and carbohydrates with little nutritional value. Even some seemingly-health muesli cereals have a lot of added sugar in the form of honey, malt, molasses, dried fruit or “even fruit juice”
12/27 Alton Towers Resort launches the UK’s first Rollercoaster Restaurant
For guests seeking a dining experience with a twist, Alton Towers Resort launches the UK’s first Rollercoaster Restaurant, brand new and opening in May 2016. The new restaurant is set below a vast rollercoaster track where diners can watch as their order tackles two gravity defying loop-the-loops before dropping 8m/26ft down the tornado spiral to their table. To ensure that the menu is up to the challenge, each of the dishes will be put through its paces at the Resort’s extensive test centre to guarantee that each one can withstand the force
13/27 'Heat map' shows which areas of Britain enjoy the spiciest curries
After Bradford was named the Curry Capital of Britain for the fifth year running, a map has been released showing which regions of Britain enjoy a spicy curry and which prefer the milder variants. According to the map developed by Hari Ghotra, Kent, Essex, West Yorkshire and Lancashire are the heat-handling kings of Britain, while Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales all prefer milder curries. The data was collected by monitoring the location of social media posts that mentioned names of curries. These were then given a spice rating and were then collated to give each area a score out of 1000
14/27 Peckham-based business develops 'first hangover-preventing meat'
Victorians threw cold water over themselves, Native Americans licked their own sweat and Ancient Egyptians would cast spells on their beer. These days, the office barfly is more likely to be seen sipping an Alka-Seltzer the day after the night before. But the hangover-treatment industry is now reported to be worth billions, so it’s no wonder everyone from big pharma to quirky hipster start-ups are inventing new and enticing ways to cash in on the painful headaches and slumps in productivity – starting by preventing hangovers in the first place. One of the latest miracle cures to hit the shelves in 2015 is salami. Serious Pig, a Peckham-based craft meat business, has developed what it calls “the world’s first hangover- preventing meat treat”
15/27 French cheese under threat from mass production and ‘bacteriological correctness’
Search where you will in the most exclusive cheese shops in France and you will no longer find a bleu de Termignon, a vacherin d’Abondance or a galette des Monts-d’Or. They are among 50 species of French cheese to have vanished in the past four decades. The survival of French cheese made in the traditional manner with lait cru or raw, unpasteurised milk, is threatened by the “bacteriological correctness” of European and national food safety regulation
16/27 Non-alcoholic cocktails are seriously chic
We are living through a new era of creative, non-alcoholic drinks that go way beyond a coke or sweet mocktail. The world is becoming more health conscious. There's the war on sugar, and teetotalism is on the rise, with more than one in five not drinking at all (especially young adults), according to The National Statistics for Adult Drinking Habits. This abstinence is even more pronounced in London, with almost one in three turning away from alcohol. An increasing number of mixologists are applying their talents to the creation of non-alcoholic drinks that taste as good as their boozy alternatives
17/27 Japanese whisky crisis
Suntory’s chief blender Mr. Fukuyo San blends component whiskies to create Suntory Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve, a blend of young and old single malts. Japan’s warm climate and varied seasons makes it perfect environment to age and blend whiskies, creating subtle, refined and complex expressions.The recent trend for Japanese whisky has put the spirit on the verge of a global shortage
18/27 Crisps made with real ingredients
Michelin starred chef, Simon Rogan in action cooking a menu inspired by the provenance ingredients in the new Chef’s Signature range from Kettle Chips. Kettle Chips, the nation’s favourite premium crisp brand, has launched the new range of crisps with exciting new seasonings, made with the highest quality food ingredients rather than chemicals or artificial flavours
19/27 The price of an avocado is set to rise
Britain’s avocado coulovers are facing a significant increase in the cost of their favourite salad food because the so-called superfood is becoming too popular. High demand from health-conscious consumers has led Peru to triple its avocado exports since 2010, with exports to the UK up 58% over the past year
20/27 Burger King to sell alcohol in the UK
Burger King could become the first fast food chain to sell alcohol in its UK restaurants. The popular eatery plans to sell American beers in plastic bottles from this month onwards. The beverages are only to be consumed on restaurant premises
21/27 Guinness to become vegan-friendly
Guinness is set to become vegan friendly for the first time in its 256-year history, as the company announced its plan to stop using fish bladders in its filters
22/27 Why the salmon on your plate might not actually be salmon
Salmon that ends up on the dinner table may not be salmon at all, a study has suggested. The problem of salmon mislabelling has become an increasing issue in the US in the winter months, according to American research published by Oceana. The findings show that 43 per cent of the salmon tested was mislabelled – the most common instance of this being when farmed Atlantic salmon was sold as wild salmon
23/27 McDonald's launches 'premium' burger range
Fast-food chain McDonald’s is throwing its hat into the UK’s gourmet burger ring after launching its Signature Collection. The premium burgers, which feature the restaurant's thickest ever beef patty made from 100 per cent British and Irish beef, were made available in 28 restaurants in London and the South
24/27 Additives in popular chicken nuggets
Ingredients, a new book co-created by photographer Dwight Eschliman and food writer Steve Ettlinger distils 25 products, including popcorn, Red Bull and chicken soup, focusing on 75 of the most common food additives and revealing what each one looks like, where it comes from and why it is used. McDonald’s chicken nuggets were found to contain 40 different ingredients. These included dextrose, a sugar also used by shoe makers to make leather more pliable, and corn starch, used for thickening food as well as also being a substitute for petrol
25/27 New Zealanders are behind a lot of the interesting food and drink stuff happening in the UK
Dark beers are more suited to cold months, so the thinking goes, but in one part of the world they're always popular. "Lots of breweries in New Zealand have got stouts and porters among their best sellers," says Stu McKinlay, one half of the duo behind Wellington brewing company Yeastie Boys. McKinlay recently swapped Wellington for west Kent in order to launch Yeastie Boys in the UK, and he's joined forces with four other breweries (8 Wired, Renaissance, Three Boys, Tuatara) as part of the New Zealand Craft Beer Collective, to promote his country's finest over here
26/27 How dangerous is a bacon sandwich
A recent WHO report warning that processed and red meats can cause cancer may have left you thinking a little harder about whether to pick up that bacon butty for breakfast or ditch a beef-filled Bolognese for dinner - but how worried should we be? The review of 800 studies for the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) prompted global health experts to cast processed meats - including bacon, ham and sausages - into the ominous-sounding list of group 1 carcinogens, where they joined formaldehyde, gamma radiation and cigarettes. Eating just a 50g portion of processed meat – or two rashers of bacon - a day increases the risk of bowel cancer by 18 per cent, the experts concluded
27/27 Best UK fish and chip shops revealed in ‘Oscars’ of fish-frying industry
Devon, Norfolk, Yorkshire and Somerset offer the best fish and chips in the UK, according to the 2016 National Fish and Chip Awards. Selected from a shortlist of 10 semi-finalists, Hanbury’s Famous Fish and Chips in Babbacombe, Devon; No 1 Cromer in Cromer, Norfolk; Papa’s Fish and Chips in Willerby, East Yorkshire; The Scallop Shell in Bath, Somerset; and Trenchers Restaurant in Whitby, North Yorkshire have been declared the best restaurants serving the traditional English dish
On the way to Lawns Park, Kevin talks more about the impact Fuel for School had on his former primary, Asquith. The project was started by Nathan Atkinson, the headteacher at nearby primary Richmond Hill, who used waste food to feed kids whose hunger was a barrier to learning.
Kevin says when he brought the project to his own school, he realised that it wasn’t just about hunger. “It was about the kids’ relationships with food. We got them running the market stall and suddenly we saw those difficult kids were engaged in the project, their handwriting improved, their maths improved.”
Cath Brook, a teaching assistant at Lawns Park, has run a cooking club for seven years to try and give kids skills that they often don’t learn from their parents. She also kept a market stall with food from the Real Junk Food Project running all summer. She remembers offering one parent a bag of rice and them saying, “I wouldn’t know what to do with that”.
She emerges from the front of the school to greet Kevin. “We’re into the second generation of de-skilled parents in the kitchen,” she says. “Since microwave meals came in, parents have been turning to fresh veg less and less and relying on prepackaged foods. I think it’s important that these children know what they’re eating, where it’s come from and how it’s prepared. That they develop an engagement with food and life skills for the future.”
The school sits between Old Farnley, a poorer neighbourhood, and New Farnley, a posher bit of four-bedroom homes. It must cater to both types of families. A third of children in the area are among the bottom 10 per cent for income in the whole country. “We have asked them to go to breakfast club,” says Rebecca Ford, the head teacher. “I know kids who come to school and their breakfast would be a chocolate biscuit or a packet of M&Ms. Sometimes they haven’t had breakfast at all. They would be tired, agitated, not ready for learning.”
Breakfast club is not only a chance for these children to eat, but a chance for them to sit and talk to one another in a calm environment. “They’re sitting together, chatting and having a lovely breakfast so that they’re ready for the day,” Rebecca says.
After the assembly, Kevin runs a workshop. The children discuss where food comes from, how much energy it takes to produce it and how far it travels before it reaches their plates. Later on, they dig through crates from the Pudsey warehouse and start to examine the food, smelling it, touching it and nibbling bits to see whether it is still good enough to eat. A little girl runs up to a supervisor with a bag of semolina. “Where is Polska?” she says. Learning that the word is Polish for Poland, she opens an atlas and traces the food’s journey from Poland to England on the map.
“This is a way for my children to be aware of the waste that’s created and to be proactive, to make our children see that they can do something about these things,” Rebecca, the head, says.
At the end of the day, the children arrange the food on a market stall at the school gates for parents. Fresh fruit and vegetables go first. Some children take biscuits to eat on the way home. The bread is inspected several times but left behind for being a little stale. Some parents swerve the stall altogether, perhaps as a point of pride. “That’s one reason why we try to make it about environmentalism rather than food poverty,” Kevin explains. “To stop any stigma.”
This week he will finish writing an education pack to distribute to schools so that they can lead Fuel For School themselves. He’ll meet with the education department at Leeds Beckett University to see if they can get student teachers involved. Adam is spending half his time in Sheffield to kickstart The Real Junk Food Project there and there are already discussions happening in Bradford and Wigan.
“That’s nothing,” Adam says at the suggestion that the project it catching on fast. “I'm hoping for all 236 schools in Leeds by the end of next summer.” In the long term, The Real Junk Food Project wants to be so successful at eliminating food waste that the school visits, the supermarket and the cafes are no longer needed. “We want to put ourselves out of business,” Adam says.Reuse content