Real Junk Food Project Manchester

Contrary to the name, the Real Junk Food Project does not specialise in junk food. It specialises in providing wholesome, nutritious meals made from food that would otherwise go to waste. They are then served on a pay-as-you-feel basis, tackling food waste, food poverty and social isolation. Run largely by volunteers and on a not-for-profit basis they are a mixture of practical action and campaigning. We donate to them on a regular basis and recently sent them a large package of chocolate (which wasn’t going to waste, but we thought they’d like some) and caught up with their founder and director Corin Bell….


When did you set up Real Junk Food Manchester?

May 2014, but at that time we were just a very small group of volunteers with a shared goal. 


What was your inspiration?

I was working as a freelancer in sustainability projects in Manchester, and someone I was working with on a project told me about this guy called Adam Smith who had started this thing in Leeds called The Real Junk Food Project. Networking and finding out what other projects and orgs are up to is part of the territory if you’re a freelance Project manager, so I emailed Adam and went over to Leeds to meet him. I loved the mix of practical action and campaigning they had going on, and the way that pay-as-you-feel managed to cut through any kind of segregation. So I emailed Adam and asked if I could try and bring the project to Manchester, and he responded, “YES!!!!” “NOW!!!!!”. I still have that email to this day. 


Who are your typical customers?

EVERYONE. That’s why we love what we do. There are lots of projects that claim to be inclusive because “anyone” can go and get a free or cheap meal. But in reality projects that target people in food poverty also separate them from everyone else. What we aim to do is create cool spaces with a great food offer where people want to be, including people who have disposable income and can make choices about where they want to eat. Then we serve all the meals on a pay-as-you-feel basis and make it clear that everyone is welcome. The aim is to bring as many different people from as many different backgrounds as possible together.


What sort of help/ donations do you need?

EVERYTHING…. We need people, skills, energy, to generate a decent income from those who can afford to support our project. Oddly food is the one thing we don’t struggle for, which in itself is a depressing state for our food system to be in, with so much perfectly edible food being wasted. We’d like to open a second, and possibly even more sites in Manchester, so we’re always on the look out for more kitchen equipment. 

Do you have a typical menu?

Nope…. We use 100% food that would otherwise go to waste. In 3 years we have never bought a single ingredient and I’m very proud of that. It means our menu is decided entirely by what we intercept. Luckily I have 2 amazing chefs, who essentially play the biggest game of Ready, Steady, Cook you’ve ever seen in your life. They find out in the morning what we’ve intercepted, and then make lunch for 100-300 people a day, and the lunatics seem to have a good time doing it! 


How has the journey been so far?

Well, not easy, but that’s OK. It’s been really hard work, physically and mentally, and at times it’s been a real uphill struggle and we’ve had some real set backs at times. But we feel like what we’re doing can do some real good, and that keeps us going. 


What plans do you have for the future?

Well, the immediate plan is to open our very first restaurant, which has been a long time coming (opening on Tuesday…. eeeekkkk). The rest of this year will be spent getting that up, running and a success. Next year we’re planning to open another site in Ancoats (just out of the city centre in North Manchester), and then, who knows. We’ve got lots of ideas to do good things with food, and we’re ready to try them all. 


Are there projects like you elsewhere in the UK? 

The Real Junk Food Project is a network of grassroots activists and there are projects all over the UK and beyond now! To find out if there’s one near you check out


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