Adam Smith faces investigation for feeding people

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Trading Standards have clearly nothing better to do than prop up our throwaway society. Commerce over common sense has to end.

How many times have you gone to your cupboard or fridge, picked up something a few days past its “Use By” date, opened it and decided it’s still okay to eat?

I have.

How many times have you gone to a supermarket and bought something from the reduced-to-clear shelf because its “Sell By” date is that day, then used it a day or two after?

I have.

What happens to all the unsold reduced-to-clear items? Is it recycled? Used in some manner? Nope. It’s thrown away. Becomes landfill. Wasted. And all because our laws don’t have any common sense clauses attached to them.

Enter Adam Smith. Chef. Local hero. Less than a mile from my house, he set up the country’s first Real Junk Food Project (EDIT: now rebranded Food Revival) — a warehouse stocked with food that supermarkets and other businesses would have otherwise thrown away. He’s not selling it. He’s making it available to people who can’t afford it. Or those who have hit hardship. Or those who don’t believe that food goes from “edible” to “inedible” in one day.

All he asks is you try to make a donation; money, time or skills. Something, anything, to help cover his costs of operating the warehouse. Some retailers deliver food to him, others he offers to collect. Some won’t deal with him at all.

To warehousing and beyond

Adam’s sharehouses are popping up in cities across the country. Clearly there’s a human need for it. Being an enterprising chap, he also championed a chain of restaurants. I’ve been to one, Armley Junk-tion, and had a wonderful three-course meal including cheese fondue with meat dippers, all made from food that was thrown out because of our inflexible laws.

The Junk-tion is a café by day and freely open to anyone who needs a meal. By evening it’s by booking only, and within an hour of posting the availability on Facebook, it’s full. There are no prices. No set menus. You take pot luck on the day: choose from the chalk board of available dishes based on ingredients rejected by the retail industry, the chef prepares it, and afterwards you can either put some cash in an envelope or reward the team with your time or skills. Wash the dishes. Sweep the floor. Provide artwork to brighten the place. Offer to decorate. Just help out in some small way, anything. Pay What You Feel, it’s called. Brilliant. (EDIT: sadly, it’s now closed).

Adam’s company also diverts fruit, veg and other food items from bins to a number of local schools under the Fuel For School initiative and he’s hoping to help out all local schools by the end of the summer.

In short, he’s an absolute hero. And what thanks does he get from the same government that contributes to the problem? He gets hounded and threatened by the law and bureaucracy.

What constitutes unsellable?

The latest Trading Standards investigation occurred after a visit where they found “444 items that were 6,345 days past their use by date”. Sounds terrible when represented in soundbite-inducing numbers. Although I despise reducing things to meaningless averages, that’s an average of two weeks per item. Some was only a day beyond its official expiry. Some that was months “out of date” included items such as dried or powdered spices that anyone knows can usually be used safely for months beyond their official end of life. Maybe years.

They didn’t focus on the things that were within date and had been dropped or dented. Nor did they consider produce that was pre-bagged, where one of the items in the bag had gone mushy, thus making the entire bag “unsellable” according to our laws. In the real world, we’d open the bag, throw away the one rotten item and eat the remainder rather than trash the entire lot.

Of course the manufacturers are going to put a date on it. They make a best guess, erring on the side of caution to cover their butts, and also to encourage you to buy more. But crucially, it’s not a magic date after which produce becomes utterly unusable, it’s a guide. The law misses that nuance.

Adam is not selling anything. No laws have been broken. He’s just offering humans an opportunity to eat, and save tonnes (and tonnes) of food from going into landfill, helping the planet and our environment in the process. People can take or leave the opportunity based on personal choice and are encouraged to make a donation in time, skills or money. That is all.

Please, please support Adam in his tireless work to Feed Bellies Not Bins. He has a petition to the UK government to rethink expiry dates legislation. If nothing else, sign it. If you can do more, that’s even better. His TEDx talk is inspiring.

At a time when we as a planet need to analyse and improve our approach to food and agricultural use of devastating pesticides, throwing perfectly usable food away due to inflexible legislation is lunacy.

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