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Case study: Cutting Down on Food Waste with The Real Junk Food Project Sheffield

East Midlands Trains (EMT) had already been working to eliminate on train food waste being created from unnecessary ordering of stock. The next step was to deal with the unavoidable food waste that is created due to food safety policy and legislation. This is where The Real Junk Food Project Sheffield (RJFPS) stepped in.

​Company: East Midlands Trains

How was this solved?

The Real Junk Food Project is a non-profit social enterprise promoting the value of food, and the value of people. They try to reduce unnecessary food waste, improve the availability of food for everyone and develop critical skills and understanding in relation to food. RJFPS and EMT developed a partnership where left over low-risk food items from EMT’s Sheffield to London St Pancras breakfast service are collected and reused in a sustainable manner. Low Risk is defined by the EMT food safety policy which states if a temperature of 10 degrees or below is maintained, low risk raw items can be issued to trains on 2 consecutive days. It isn't good practice to repeat the process for a third time, although the products are perfectly fit for human consumption, an element of risk is introduced with the fluctuation of temperature in different environments.

EMT’s internal sustainable steering group, Sustainable EMT, was challenged with identifying opportunities for sustainable improvement across the business. Waste management was identified as a general issue companywide. Although a simple concept, the risks associated with food donations posed a problem. EMT had explored the idea of donating surplus food for a number of years and had been able to do so with a small amount of ambient products, however, due to food safety and logistics barriers a suitable solution for EMT chilled products was lacking.

After meeting the RJFP and discussing a number of options, EMT carried out an internal risk assessment which included monitoring/recording the product temperatures and identifying suitable storage facilities. They also sort legal advice to ensure all parties were satisfied with the arrangements. Meat products are now stored in refrigeration units by their catering suppliers and then a logistics flow of 'train to storage / storage to warehouse' was put in place. The RJFP's refrigerated van now collects from Sheffield station twice weekly.

The working partnership is appreciated by both The Real Junk Food Project Sheffield and EMT as it contributes to the sustainable development principles, reducing the quantity of edible food going landfill/incineration (environmental), helps generate an income for a local social enterprise in the RJFPS whilst reducing EMT waste costs (economic) and contributes to raising awareness of food waste within EMT and Sheffield (community). Even more importantly, the food goes to a charity that brings together people from the local community and ensures that people do not go hungry. Customers visiting the cafés can pay what they want for the food making it an affordable and nutritious option for many people.

Recently The Real Junk Food Project Sheffield decided to expand their work by visiting local schools and educating children on the importance of a nutritional and balanced diet providing meals from the excess food collected around the city. The social enterprise also operates a sharehouse market which gives local residents the opportunity to purchase groceries on a ‘pay what you like’ basis.

https://realjunkfoodsheffield.com/

What were the outcomes?

The Real Junk Food Project Sheffield now pickup twice a week from Sheffield Station. So far EMT have donated over 1.5 tonnes of food to The Real Junk Food Project which they estimate has fed over 600 people for a day. The majority of items donated are eggs, bread and mushrooms; these provide a base for full English breakfasts at the cafés and school meals. EMT continues to keep a close eye on food orders, making sure they optimise the process and minimise the amount of waste produced.

Real Junk Food Project Sheffield are now able to provide catering for events due to the volume of food donations they receive, they have catered for weddings, university events and recently promoted their services at the EMT Management Conference, promoting their venture and creating catering options from our own donated food.

EMT can now ensure good food does not become waste which would otherwise have been destined for incineration or landfill. The partnership work with Real Junk Food Project Sheffield has strengthened links with the local community, something that EMT is keen to expand. They now offer other services wherever possible, such as donating kitchen equipment or sharing management knowledge/experience with the RJFPS Team to help them succeed.

Principles

  • Reducing environmental impact
  • Having a positive social impact
  • Supporting the economy

Asset/ operations

Operations

Organisation type

TOC

The Real Junk Food Project Sheffield
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