Rainbow Junktion community waste food café at All Hallows Leeds 

Rev. Heston Groenewald, the Vicar of All Hallows Church Leeds, describes how Rainbow Junktion community waste food café is part of a growing network of pay-as-you feel cafés that aim to reduce food waste, feed hungry people and build community. 

What is special about the Rainbow Junktion café? 

The pay as you feel café is brilliant, because we have so many who can’t afford to pay in money but are thrilled to wash up, garden or make a new friend. And the more neighbours who come in the greater the environmental impact. 

Some of our neighbours really need the food and others come for other reasons, such as companionship or for work meetings. 

How does the café operate?  

The café operates entirely through volunteers and with minimal operating costs. We are members of the Real Junk Food Project Network, who gather and store surplus food which would otherwise have gone to waste. We also enjoy cooking and sharing food which has been provided by local friends such as supermarkets and restaurants in the neighbourhood. 

However, since the start of the Covid pandemic we have had to shift the café into a food bank. This makes us feel the huge injustice of so much food going to waste elsewhere whilst others queue at the food bank. 

How busy is the Rainbow Junktion community waste food café? 

We are open three times a week. Each day we intercept waste food, prepare it and serve it to 70 – 100 folks.

How much waste food does the café divert into people’s tummies? 

Around 30% of edible food goes to waste in the UK. The figures we have given are out of date, because they are from 2015 when we were only open twice a week and had fewer visitors because our neighbours were less aware of food waste. However, it is clear that even when we operated at a smaller scale the café diverted 8.64 tonnes of food used in preparing 3,662 meals for over 700 people. That’s the equivalent of 144 standard wheelie bins, or 54 households worth of avoidable food waste valued at approximately £25,380! 

What are the interlinked social, environmental and financial impacts of the café? 

Bringing diverse neighbours together in friendship over a meal where they can also raise their awareness of the environmental impacts of food waste is a vital component of the café’s work, as it is across all of the Real Junk Food Project cafés.  

For instance, in 2015 half of our customers said they wasted less food at home because they had been to the café. This saved approximately £33.28 per customer per year, an annual reduction of 17%. 

Another impact comes directly through the food we serve. Even back in 2015, we saved an estimated 21 tonnes of CO2 emissions from avoidable food waste. These CO2 savings were broadly equivalent to the impact of taking four cars off of the road for a year.