May 2020

University boosts links with The Real Junk Food Project as surplus stock donated to the community

Read time: approx 4 mins

University College Birmingham has joined forces with a community organisation to help combat food waste and provide support for local residents in need.

With campus buildings still closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the University has recently donated surplus stock of food and drink to The Real Junk Food Project (TRJFP) Birmingham to be distributed around the city.

Part of the Real Junk Food Project network operating throughout the UK and around the world, TRJFP Birmingham collects food items that might otherwise go to waste and redistributes them among the local population, with a team of volunteers providing food bags and additional support to residents during the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown.

The project also normally uses donations to produce meals served in its community cafes located around the city, as well as operating a 'sharehouse' in Winson Green, all on a 'pay as you feel' basis.

University College Birmingham delivered a range of food and drink items to the sharehouse earlier this month – just one of the ways in which the University has worked with TRJFP Birmingham over the past two years.

Surplus baked goods from Cakes and Bakes have regularly been donated to the project along with excess fruit, vegetables and other raw ingredients. TRJFP Birmingham volunteer coordinator Ann Gallagher has also delivered talks to students, as well as working on research into the setup of community cafes as part of a community of action group developed by the University.

"Collecting the food has been really useful, plus it's given people a chance to sample really good quality bread and cakes," said Ann.

"I have also particularly enjoyed the research into cafes," she added. "It gives us a chance to have that intellectual discussion and work towards how we could do more with the students."

Several University College Birmingham students have previously undertaken placements at TRJFP Birmingham's community cafes, and Ann encouraged more students to get involved with the project.

"For us, it's just about getting food eaten or used by somebody somewhere and helping people in need," she said. "It's about making things a bit better for all of us."

Prior to the lockdown in March, second year BSc Health and Social Care students hosted a pop-up community cafe at McIntyre House, with TRJFP providing food and toiletries.

The University has also been discussing potential plans for running a community cafe in future, extending support to students and the wider community while focusing the University's ambitions on promoting sustainability, reducing environmental impact and minimising food waste.

Health and Social Care lecturer Philip Hoppner said: "Over the past year, we have been building links with a number of voluntary sector organisations who are involved in supporting individuals and communities across the city by developing cafes, food banks and social supermarkets.

"There are more University College Birmingham students who would like to get involved in a community cafe project, and the concept of developing a supportive approach to sharing food and their gifts, skills and talents is one that appeals to many of our students, especially in times of hardship.

"As the university at the heart of the city, we want to offer students opportunities to make a difference and be part of a university community that is building a better world. Our students have a lot to offer and these types of experiences can be hugely rewarding, as well as preparing them for professional life."

Find out more about The Real Junk Food Project in Birmingham here. The project also forms part of #BrumTogether, a coalition of voluntary, community and faith groups around Birmingham providing essential supplies and support during the lockdown – to find out how you can get involved or if you are in need of support, click here.

University College Birmingham offers a variety of courses relating to health, social care and the community. Discover our range of courses within our School of Education, Health and Community here, and follow the latest updates on Twitter