Armley junk food café’s future is secured

The future of an under-threat ‘pay as you feel’ Leeds café which launched a global anti-waste food revolution has been secured.

Volunteers Ann Shelley and Nigel Stone outside the Armley Junk-tion cafe

Armley Junk-tion cafe on Chapel Lane, Armley, was opened in December 2013 after volunteers had the idea of cooking up food that would otherwise have been dumped and asking customers to ‘pay us you feel’ or donate a skill.

The concept snowballed and a further eight pay as you feel cafés have sprung up across Leeds and 40 have opened in other UK cities. And pay as you feel cafés are now operating in a string of countries, including France, Germany and Australia.

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Armley Junk-tion’s team launched an online fundraising drive last November to help secure the Chapel Lane café’s future after revealing plans to raise around £100,000 to buy the building they rented from Geldards Coaches.

The appeal netted £23,000 in just six weeks, but the building’s future remained uncertain. Now Armley Junk-tion has raised more than £97,000 from donations, fundraising and investors and has bought the building.

Teresa Milligan is co-director of Armley Junk-tion, which is part of the Real Junk Food Project. She said: “We are over the moon. The Chapel Lane building is the flagship of the Real Junk Food Project. It was the very first pay as you feel café in the UK using waste food. Now there are around 110 cafés across the world in the pipeline.

“We opened one in Berlin last week and there are cafés in South Africa, Australia and France which are all part of the Real Junk Food Project, which we created in December 2013.

“It is such a simple concept. We started out on the environmental side of it by saving waste food from going to landfill, but we came across the social side of it.

“There are so many hungry people who don’t have access to food in this day and age and waste food and hungry people go hand in hand.

“We are going to make plans to refurbish the café in an eco-friendly style. We would like to thank everybody who has donated and made this possible. And we want to thank Martin Geldard for being patient with us.”

Around 350 customers a week use the café and pay what they feel by putting money in a box or volunteering to donate their time to help the project in payment.

More than 200 volunteers collect unwanted food from sources including households, restaurants, allotments, other cafés, Kirkgate Market and even food photographers, to serve up.

Martin Geldard, of Leeds-based Geldards Coaches, said: “We are pleased they have bought the building. I think they do a fantastic job by using food that was going to get thrown away.”

– Shoppers in Leeds city centre can now sample a buffet made from food destined for landfill at ta new pay-as-you-feel cafe.

City Junk-tion - part of The Real Junk Food Project network - is making meals from intercepted food waste in the Grand Arcade in Leeds city centre.

The café opened last month in conjunction with Santiago Bar and is serving Thursday to Sunday afternoons.

The Real Junk Food Project now has over 40 cafés operating across the country.