Frequently Asked Questions
- Where does the food come from?
- Where does the money go?
- Is the food safe?
- What about food allergens?
- Can I volunteer?
- Can you help me set up a similar project?
Where does the food come from?
Most of our food comes from Fareshare (insert link) It is donated to them, by big supermarkets, such as Waitrose, Tesco, Aldi and Booths. The supermarkets donate food that they can’t sell, this could be for several reasons: they bought too much and they think they won’t sell it before it goes out of date; they have changed the packaging and they don’t want to leave products with the old-style packaging on the shelves; the food is mislabelled, or not labelled at all; the food is misshaped – we had a crate of millionaires’ short bread that was cut too small.
Some of our food comes from local shops and stalls, we get some vegetables from single-step, they might be a little bit past their best, but they still make great soup. Billy, on the market donates eggs that have been a bit damaged, the shell is cracked, so they are fine, we just have to use them straight away. Booths and Sainsbury donate bread to us, it is past it’s best before date, but it is still good for a few days, at events we dampen it and wrap it in foil and put it in the oven, it is just like fresh bread, or we put it in other things, like bread and butter pudding, or we use the crumbs.
Where does the money go?
Unless we are running an event from someone else, the donated money goes back into the project. We have to pay Fareshare, it is not free, they are a charity too and the money we pay them goes to their project called ‘Recycling Lives’ please read about them on their website, the link is above. We have to buy extra ingredients, we don’t get everything donated. All the equipment that you see us use we have bought, we started out with just things from our own kitchens, but as we have gone along we have bought equipment that we take with us to events. We have to run a vehicle to collect the food and move things and people around.
Sometimes we run events for other people, we have run events for City of Sanctuary, Marsh Community Centre, Lancaster District Homeless Action and The Night Shelter, at Christ Church, on those occasions we give all the donated money to them. Sometimes, like Potato Day we run events with other people, and then we share the money, after expenses (like extra ingredients) with them. We always say, on all the promotional material what the event is for, unless it is just our event.
Is the food safe?
The short answer is, yes! Usually the food is in date, it has been donated to us for other reasons (see above). If it is not in date, sometimes things like tins or jars are out of date, we have a certificate to say that the food has been tested and it is safe. Sometimes we freeze things, we do that as soon as we get them, or we cook them and freeze them.
Most people who cook with us are food safety trained, and we have some very picky people who make sure that everything is done properly. We are checked by environmental health and we have a level 5, the highest rating. We have procedures for everything to make sure that all the food is safely transported to us, stored, cooked, chilled, transported to events and reheated, or cooked at the events safely. If you have any specific questions, please ask us at our events.
And, no, we don’t get food out of skips, we don’t do anything illegal 🙂
What about food allegens?
We usually have a gluten free option, the stock we use is the Marigold Vegetable Bouillon, and it is vegan and gluten free. We don’t usually put dairy products in our soup, so unless it says it has cheese in it, it will be dairy free. If the recipe wants cream, we usually put coconut milk in it, and often you can’t taste the coconut, it just tastes creamy. If you have questions about any of the food, please ask us, we cook it, we know what we put in, and we are very careful about cross-contamination. However, our food is cooked in a kitchen that does use flour, and dairy, so we can’t guarantee that there will not be traces in the food. The recipe for our vegan cake is on the website, that is dairy and egg free, and we make it with oil. If we buy margarine, we buy soya free, and we use that to make our vegan ‘buttercream’ for the cakes. Please ask us if you are unsure.
Can I volunteer with you?
Yes! We can always find something for people to do, whatever their skill levels and whatever their ability. We need people who can cook, but we also need people to peel and chop, people who can lift stuff, or drive and collect things and people, we need people to take pictures. Sometimes the people who help us say things like, ‘I want to help, but I need a job where I can sit down’, we can find you a job like that – when we are cooking, you can sit at a table, or you can help serve cake at the café. Sometimes, people say, ‘I really want to help, but I can only come for a few hours’, that is fine too, talk to us and we can sort out the best time for you. We have people who turn up at 3 and they take over from us and do the washing up and packing away, or people who come when we are busiest from 12 – 1.30. We need admin people, who can put together an email list or a newsletter, and we need money people who can help with our books. If you are good at writing funding bids, you could help us with that. Talk to us, we will find something you can do.
Can you help me to set up a similar project?
Well, we can, but we are all volunteers, and we have families and other jobs, so we can’t come and give consultations or spend lots of time writing a how to guide. But, if you read through the website and on the Facebook page (insert link) you will find lots of information about what we do and how we do it. We are more than happy for you to come and volunteer with us, and you can pick our brains as much as you like, whilst you are helping us. Before you email us, make sure you have read as much as you can. Read how other projects have done it, have a look at The Real Junk Food Project and others.