Here are answers to some of the Frequently Asked Questions we get at TRJFP Brum.
I want a Freegan Box, but I can’t get to Ladywood/Kings Heath at those times. Can I collect at another time/venue?
What is Pay As You Feel?
ALL the food that TRJFP provides is Pay As You Feel, or PAYF for short.
That means you contribute however you can to the success of our project: donating your time, skills, money or something even more imaginative!
Although our food is donated, there are still costs – everything from washing up liquid, to petrol, to insurance, to making sure our volunteer staff are up to date with their food hygiene training etc; so we do need cash, but we also need hands-on help from our volunteers.
Find out how you can volunteer to help the project here. From cooking, to serving, cleaning, sorting, laundry, collecting, delivering, litter picking, gardening; there are a lot of ways you can help that don’t need to hurt your wallet!
We don’t mind how you PAYF. Everything we do has value and there is value in everything we do.
Shouldn’t the food feed the needy, or refugees, or the homeless, or something?
We don’t just feed ‘homeless people’, ‘the needy’, or any single group of people.
We feed everyone.
In order for us to prove the value and safety of food waste, we couldn’t just feed specific demographics of people. We believe food waste is absolutely fit for human consumption and so that’s who we feed – human beings.
People have said in the past they would feel guilty receiving food from us; ‘I can afford to buy my own food’. But that isn’t what the project is about. We’re trying to save perfectly edible food from landfill or otherwise going to waste. There is a lot of waste built into our plentiful system, and that food has taken effort and resources to grow, produce and transport. If you eat some of our food, that’s great, we want to #feedbelliesnotbins!
If you can afford to pay cash for our food, that’s great too – please pay what you feel the food is worth. But if anyone can’t afford to pay for the food with cash, or doesn’t want to for whatever reason, that’s also absolutely fine; there are many other ways you can help us with your time and/or skills. More info for prospective volunteers here.
Can you help us? We have no food and our benefits have been stopped.
Firstly, please contact your local Food Bank http://www.findfoodbanksbrum.org.uk/.
If you need benefit advice or information on emergency payments and hardship grants, go to CAB – Citizens Advice Bureau https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk or Birmingham Settlement http://www.birminghamsettlement.org.uk or online help is available from https://www.turn2us.org.uk/. If you have children, your local SureStart, GP, or Health Visitor may be able to help.
We’re not a charity. Our project is Pay-As-You-Feel, so if you come to us, you must be prepared to give something back for what you take – this can be money, but you can also give us your time and/or skills.
In reality, many tasks which are obvious to people when they first arrive (cooking, serving, staffing the Sharehouse) are already allocated to regular volunteers – we couldn’t run the project if we just waited to see who showed up wanting to cook on the day! But that doesn’t mean that we can’t use another pair of hands! In the cafés there’s often jobs you can still help with – washing up, mopping floors, wiping tables, tidying up afterwards etc. At some of the venues there are gardens you could help out in. In the Sharehouse you can always help by litter picking around the industrial estate. All you need to do is ask and we’ll find you a way to help out. If you’re interested in helping regularly, please see our volunteering page for more information.
Do you get your food from rummaging in supermarket bins?
While this might be where the concept of #feedbelliesnotbins originated, we never, ever source our food or other supplies by rummaging in bins. All our donated food is exactly that; donated knowingly and willingly by various sources: suppliers, manufacturers, supermarkets, wholesalers, restaurants, caterers, allotments, schools, events and sometimes individuals! It always leaves the donor’s premises through official exits and mostly during daylight hours!
TRJFP Brum adheres to all Environmental Health regulations. That includes sourcing safely, recording accurately, transporting correctly, preparing carefully, and cleaning up responsibly too.
If you’re a business and you think you could help us by donating your edible waste food, please read here.
Do you take/serve food past its Best Before/Use By date?
All our Pay As You Feel venues adhere to all Environmental Health regulations. This includes transporting food safely, storing it safely, cooking and re-heating it safely. Many of our kitchen staff are trained chefs with years of experience, and we also encourage and fund our volunteers to get their Food Hygiene Level 2 qualification.
We intercept food that is past its Best Before date or surplus to requirements. Food can be surplus to requirements for many reasons; a ‘glut’ of fresh fruit or veg due to excess supply vs demand, a change in the stock a shop wishes to hold, a change in packaging, accidental overordering, and many other reasons besides.
By law, we cannot accept or distribute food that is past its Use By date.
There’s some helpful information on the Food Standards Agency Website on the difference between Best Before and Use By here:
If you get your food for free, why do I need to pay for it?
Although our food is donated, we still incur costs to distribute it, and if we didn’t cover those costs we wouldn’t be able to operate by law. Things like public liability insurance, food hygiene certificates etc.
Then there are unavoidable running costs – we sadly haven’t yet worked out a way to convert cauliflowers and cucumbers to petrol, utilities, or washing up liquid!
We don’t mind how you Pay As You Feel, with cash, time, or skills, but everyone who benefits from TRJFP is asked to contribute, and it is important that you do, in order for the project to continue.
Can you cater for an event?
Yes, we do event catering too! But we have to be careful not to overstretch ourselves in terms of both volunteer capacity and food available, so we limit ourselves to events catering for events for 50 people or fewer and a maximum of 2 events per week. There may be room for exceptions where we are providing food only with no catering or volunteer support, but this would need to be agreed on a case-by-case basis.
If you’d like to #feedbelliesnotbins at your next event, please visit https://trjfpbrum.com/events-catering/ and complete the request form. We look at event requests on a minimum of a fortnightly basis (usually weekly) to decide which we can cater, so we should be in touch to discuss details of your event and whether we can provide food for it shortly.
Why is there a waiting list for Freegan Boxes if there’s so much waste?
There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to make the Freegan Boxes happen each Friday; from collecting the food throughout the week, to storing it, sorting it, planning the logistics of how it gets from one place to the next, staffing collection points etc, and it takes a lot of volunteers putting in a lot of hours to make it happen each and every week.
We wish we didn’t have to operate a waiting list, but unfortunately we became too popular for our own good. With enough volunteers and enough space we probably could manage more, but right now we’re capping numbers until further notice.
I want a Freegan Box, but I can’t get to Ladywood/Kings Heath at those times. Can I collect at another time/venue?
Sorry, no. Quite a lot of effort goes into the Freegan Box scheme, from the admin, the logistics, the sorting, the packing, the transporting, the storing, the staffing etc. Many many volunteers give their time to make it happen as it is and there is only so much we can do. It’s specifically that time on a Friday to co-incide with collecting from the Wholesale Markets so we can distribute as much of their waste before the weekend as possible. We’re sorry if you can’t make the collection times we have, but you’re still welcome to shop at any of the boutiques we have on other days.
Why do I have to write down the amount I’m donating for my Freegan Box?
For some months now, we’ve been asking Freegan Box collectors to write down the amount they’re donating. This idea was suggested by one of our volunteers to promote accountability and transparency, as they were concerned that if the takings donation box seemed ‘light’ on a week they were responsible for it, that questions might be asked where the money was. This way we can total up what has been donated and everyone can be clear that it is as it should be.
A coincidental benefit has been that donors are also more accountable for their donations when they need to sign for them – sadly, foreign and even plastic coins were often dropped into the donation tins prior to this system being introduced. This has been almost completely eradicated now.
Remember, we’re not a charity or a food bank, we’re a community interest company. If we can’t cover our costs, we can’t deliver you a service, and we can’t pay for petrol, rates, rent, or insurance with Euro cents, Tanzanian shillings, Czech koruna, or monopoly money! Don’t forget, all the food TRJFPB provides is Pay As You Feel, so you can donate your time and/or skills to the project as well as or instead of cash! Look on our volunteers page for more information about how you can get involved – there’s all sorts of ways to help!
Me and my friend signed up for a Freegan Box at the same time. Why have they got one and I haven’t?
Freegan Box requests are addressed on a first-come-first-served basis. But that said, to come off of the waiting list, a few things need to happen.
Firstly, you need another person to cancel their box so that there is a spare box for you to collect. Lots of people quite like their boxes, so we don’t get a lot of cancellations!
Secondly, depending on where you collect your box from, you also need there to be a space in the car that delivers the boxes to your collection point – there’s no point in allocating you a box if there’s no room in the car to transport it!
We do get a few cancellations each month, so the waiting list is constantly changing, but the demand in some areas is stronger than others, and so some people waiting in some areas sadly do wait longer. If you’re more flexible on where you can collect from, the waiting list at Ladywood (where we sort the boxes) is considerably quicker, as we’re not dependent on transportation there.
If you know someone who seems to have jumped the queue ahead of you, it is most likely due to one of these reasons:
- That they signed up marginally before you did (which probably means you’re near the top of the list too).
- Have you checked your spam email folder? It does sometimes happen that we send out an offer of a box and we don’t get a reply. We provide junk food, not junk mail, but email servers don’t always recognise this! If you don’t reply back to our offer, your name won’t get onto the list, and after a few weeks we will delete your data to comply with Data Protection regulations.
- That your friend is collecting from a different delivery point to yours – theirs had space for an extra box, yours didn’t.
- They’re a regular volunteer for TRJFP Brum. We do give priority to our regular volunteers. We wouldn’t be able to manage without their help, and one perk we are able to bestow is for them to get a Freegan Box fairly quickly.
I know there’s a waiting list, but I really need a Freegan box because… Can I have one anyway?
No. Sorry. You’d be surprised how many emails we get from people explaining why they shouldn’t have to wait their turn on the waiting list with everyone else! You might think it’s ‘just one box’, but all those ‘just one more’ boxes would add up!!
We’re not a food bank or a charity; we’re a Community Interest Company distributing waste food. We’re not in the business of judging or assessing who should have priority over whom, so we try to treat everyone fairly, and we do that by trying as far as possible to allocate boxes in the order in which they were requested.
While you are waiting for a box, please feel free to make use of our cafés and boutiques across the city, and if you are in need of assistance, please contact your local food bank http://www.findfoodbanksbrum.org.uk/.
We don’t like/can’t use white bread/mushrooms/cabbage/meat products etc. please don’t put them in our box!
We’re sorry if you get products you can’t use in your box. Our aim after all is to prevent food waste. But now that we’re putting together so many boxes per week it’s not practical to tailor boxes for individual preferences. Please pass on anything you won’t be able to use to someone who will, or give it back to the person staffing the collection point.
There was something out of date in my box! Something was mouldy/going bad!
We are a waste food redistribution project. By definition, this food has been identified as waste and donated to us, which can be for a number of reasons:
Sometimes it’s a simple overstock of a product and the business needs to make room for other products.
Sometimes the packaging or label is damaged or it’s an old packaging design.
Sometimes the products are customer returns, or rejects from substitutions made for delivery customers.
Some of the products are past their Best Before date (NEVER past their Use By date) which simply means that they aren’t as fresh as the manufacturer would like them to be.
A lot of what goes into the Freegan Boxes each Friday is produce from the wholesale markets that will be no good for sale the following week. Most of our Freegan Box customers understand that this is not the cosmetically perfect stuff we’re used to seeing in supermarkets, but with a little effort and swift action it can be turned into delicious, nutritious food to #feedbelliesnotbins!
This means that it often needs to be processed swiftly before it goes bad, and the Freegan Boxes are perfect for getting a large bulk of stock distributed quickly across the city to people who understand and are prepared to deal with the mystery culinary challenge that each week’s Freegan Box brings!
If this is unfamiliar to you, there are a wealth of resources online about how to use up all sorts of fruit, veg, bread and other commonly wasted foods! You don’t need to cook and eat it all immediately – you can blanche, freeze, pickle, and preserve foods in many ways to extend their life and help your pocket as well as the planet.
We don’t willfully send out anything we don’t believe can be used. But, we are human and sometimes our volunteers might cut open a piece of fruit or two to check it’s not bad inside before packing the rest into the boxes – only for our customers to discover that the test fruits they chose were not representative! Or while sorting punnets of fruit, a mouldy item at the bottom of a punnet hid from the beady eyes of our busy and hard-working volunteers and went out unnoticed! That doesn’t mean that the rest of the punnet should be thrown away – prompt sorting and processing can save its neighbours!
It can also sometimes happen, particularly in hot weather, that produce that was on-the-turn first thing in the morning is properly unusable by the time you come to collect your box in the evening. If this happens, we apologise, it’s not our intention!
We know that by distributing this ‘waste’ produce to people who understand and are ready and able to put it to good use before it’s too late, we’re saving tonnes and tonnes of food from needlessly ending up in the bin, wasting all the energy and effort it took to grow, package and transport. So thank you for helping us to reduce waste!
I used to get a box, but now I don’t. What happened?
We have a long waiting list, so we might remove you from the list for a few reasons:
- If you fail to collect your box on more than one occasion without letting us know in advance
- If you regularly choose not to support us by making a #PAYF contribution for your box
If you don’t think any of these circumstances apply to you, then it could be an error, we’re not infallible! Please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will look into it for you.
I don’t always have cash on me. Can I donate online for my Freegan Box?
Yes, if you have a PayPal account you can now donate online using this link: paypal.me/freeganbox. Please login to your PayPal account when prompted to do so, and if you untick the box marked ‘goods and services’ then TRJFP Brum won’t pay any fees on your donation.
Can you deliver a box to Derby/Wolverhampton/Walsall/Kathmandu? Is there a café like yours near me? Can you come set up a project in my town?
Your best bet is to have a look at therealjunkfoodproject.org for similar projects near you.
Or maybe get a group of like minded people together and set up your own project!