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Tackling Food Waste with Rainbow Junktion

Jack Ramage sits down with Caleb Elliott from The Rainbow Junktion Cafe, to talk about tackling food wastage and the work that can be done do to reduce the needless amount of food that is thrown away daily.

Food waste: perhaps one of the most wide-reaching problems of our generation. The UK collectively produces around 31 million tonnes of waste per year - the equivalent to the weight of three and a half million double-decker buses that would go around the world two and a half times. It’s about time we get the wheels turning and reach a solution.

Caleb Elliot, the deputy manager of Rainbow Junktion, is here to provide an answer: “Rainbow Junktion is an offshoot from The Real Junk Food Project. We take food that would otherwise go to waste - things past their sell-by date, things that look a bit bruised; if just one item in the packet is bruised it all gets thrown away.” Rainbow Junktion takes this food, that would otherwise be binned, and creates healthy meals every Monday, Thursday and Friday for whoever walks in the door. Everyone is welcome, and the food on offer is pay-as-you-feel so a lack of money isn’t an issue.

This independent pay-as-you-feel cafe runs out of All Hallows Church. It is truly one of Leeds’ most important hidden gems: “It’s right in the heart of the student bubble, but it’s hidden behind a few rows of houses so nobody knows about it.”

Despite its rather unknown location, the cafe provides a melting pot for the diverse communities in LS6. “When I first walked through the doors, I didn’t even know the spectrum of the population of Hyde Park. In terms of joining communities, it’s definitely an important place. The work we’re doing together is extremely important.” Despite differences, we can all agree on waste-free grub.

Rainbow Junktion’s dedicated group of volunteers keep the cogs of the cafe and local movement turning. Caleb stated that his own inspiration for getting involved in such a selfless project came down to a life-changing talk, lead by Adam Smith of The Real Junk Food Project. This was the spark that ignited his passion for the waste reduction movement. “Food waste is an awful problem, and I was really inspired by him and how cutthroat and to-the-point he was. By the time I was leaving University, I needed motivation and an aim; so I got super involved in the cafe because it has this great flexibility about it. You can do as much or little as you want.”

Caleb notes that the best part about being involved with the movement is the inspiration it gave him to be carbon neutral – the lifestyle of having zero carbon footprint. It’s “being a part of the solution to the big problems we face, not a perpetrator. We have huge ambitions.” A self-proclaimed ‘big dreamer’, Caleb is an endless fountain of future ideas, bringing solutions to our prolific food waste problem. “I want to make something accessible because inequality is such a big issue. The Rainbow Junktion Cafe is pay-as-you-feel so it’s as accessible as possible. But I had the crazy idea of making a cafe where everything was free; there’s so much waste around that can still be consumed. If that was combined with a co-operative way of managing it, and if there was a big group that was involved - so they don’t burn-out - that would be the dream.”

Rainbow Junktion is certainly nailing this on the head, collaborating with other local creative outlets to imprint their name firmly on the Hyde Park map. On November 16th, the project worked to create a successful small creative and sustainable festival at Open Source Arts, which promoted local art. Leeds creative forward thinkers are alive and well, and The Rainbow Junktion is a sole representation of this. When it comes to bringing a positive impact to LS6 - through creativity, sustainability and integrating cultures - Rainbow Junktion ticks all the boxes.

Jack Ramage

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