Here are answers to some of the Frequently Asked Questions we get at TRJFP Brum.
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.
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. You can volunteer to help the project here.
Do you get your food from supermarkets?
We receive from various sources. Yes, we get food donated by supermarkets, but also wholesalers, restaurants, caterers, allotments, schools, events and sometimes individuals!
If you’re a business and you think you could help us by donating your edible waste food, please contact us 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 or washing up liquid either!
We don’t mind how you Pay As You Feel, with cash or time, but everyone who benefits from TRJFP is asked to contribute, and it is important that you do, in order for the project to continue.
Do you take/serve food past its expiration date?
All our Pay As You Feel cafés 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!
We intercept food that is past its expiration date or surplus to requirements and use our own judgement on whether we believe the food is fit for human consumption or not, by smelling it, tasting it and visually inspecting it. We do not turn food away simply because it has ‘expired’, but we will never serve food that we believe is unfit for human consumption.
Remember, if you buy meat from a butcher or pick fruit from your garden, it doesn’t come with a use-buy date; you have to use your senses and knowledge to assess its freshness. We do the same!
We wouldn’t serve you food that we believe is unfit for human consumption just because it is in-date, and nor will we throw away perfectly good food just because it is out-of-date.
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, liaising with all the volunteer drivers and collectors, and then delivering all the boxes , and it takes a minimum of 25 volunteers 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. After a few weeks where we found that the numbers were creeping towards 300 boxes, we found that this was unsustainable. In terms of both collecting the food and sorting it into boxes in the timeframe required, we decided we had to limit boxes to a maximum of 250 per week, for practicality and for our sanity! With enough volunteers and enough space we probably could manage more, but right now we’re capping numbers at 250 per week until further notice.
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.
Secondly, if you have requested that your box is delivered rather than collecting it yourself, you’re not just waiting for someone to cancel their box so you can come off of the waiting list – you also need there to be a space in the car that delivers boxes to your area.
We have 17 delivery routes each week, reaching out across Birmingham like the spokes on a wheel. This means we need to find 17 wonderful volunteer delivery drivers each week to deliver those boxes. Most of our drivers have normal family cars, and can only fit a certain number of boxes at a time, so again, the number of boxes per route has to be limited.
We do get a few cancellations each week, so the waiting list is constantly changing, but the demand in some areas is more pronounced than others, and so some people waiting for delivery in some areas sadly do wait longer. Those are typically the areas in which we struggle to get regular drivers to commit to a route (occasionally we’re forced to cancel entire routes altogether when we don’t find a driver for it), otherwise we would put on extra routes to cope with the demand.
If you know someone who seems to have jumped the queue ahead of you, it is most likely due to one of three reasons:
- That they signed up marginally before you did (which probably means you’re near the top of the list too).
- They have asked to collect their box instead, which means they’re not waiting for a space on a delivery route.
- That they’re on a different delivery route to yours – their route had space for their box, yours didn’t.
Lastly, 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 (that said, they almost all collect them anyway).
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 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 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 250 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!
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 repeatedly fail to collect your box,
- If you repeatedly aren’t in when we try to deliver your box, have left no instructions for what to do with it if you’re out, and we’re unable to contact you by phone,
- If you choose not to support us by covering your delivery charge or making a #PAYF contribution for your box,
- If your address is several miles from the next nearest address and it is no longer viable for us to deliver to you (though in this instance we email to see if you would like to collect instead)
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
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?
If you live outside of the Birmingham area, you’re welcome to come and collect a box from us, or visit one of our cafés or boutiques, but we have no plans to expand beyond the city.
Your best bet is to have a look at therealjunkfoodproject.org for similar projects near you.