Leeds ‘pay what you can’ café could face axe

Real Junk Food Project co-founder Adam Smith (left) with amateur artist Mark Baber.
Real Junk Food Project co-founder Adam Smith (left) with amateur artist Mark Baber.
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A CAFE in Leeds which makes meals out of food that would otherwise go to waste is seeking to raise up to £130,000 before the end of the year or face possible closure.

The Real Junk Food Project on Chapel Lane, Armley, has fed 10,000 people 20 tonnes of food on a ‘pay as you feel’ basis since it opened in December 2013.

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

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.

Customers include the homeless, people with drug problems, pensioners and students.

Leeds-based Geldards Coaches own the café building, which was a former fruit and florist’s shop, and have been supportive of the project.

But Geldards are now seeking to sell the building and have given tenants the Real Junk Food Project the first option to buy it.

The building could be placed on the open market next year if the project doesn’t raise enough cash to cover the purchase price by the end of December.

The project’s co-founder and co-director Adam Smith, 29, said the Armley café was the first of 47 similar projects that have sprung up across the country since last December in a network backed by the project

Mr Smith, a chef for 12 years, said: “We cannot be seen to just give up, when so many people are inspired and empowered by us. That is why we will fight to obtain 1 Chapel Lane, and be a sustainable example to the rest of The Real Junk Food Project network, the country, and the world, that a bunch of guys with very little gave everything to achieve great things.”

Martin Geldard, managing director of Geldard Coaches Ltd, said number 1 Chapel Lane Armley had been fruit and flower shop since 1888. The family-run shop was closed after his father Anthony Geldard retired in 2003.

Mr Geldard said: “We are not charging them much rent. We don’t want the hassle of renting property out to people. We have given them the first option to purchase it but if they don’t give us a decision by the end of the year we will put it on the market in the new year.” Mr Geldard said he would consider giving the project more time to raise funds to buy the building. Go to www.therealjunkfoodproject.co.uk.

Among its many successes, the Real Junk Food Project helped poverty-stricken Armley man Mark Baber when his prospects were so bleak that he tried to take his own life.

Project volunteers organised an auction of the 51-year-old amateur artist’s work after his benefits were cut. The auction raised more than £1,000.

Mr Baber visited the project’s cafe shortly after it opened and has displayed some of his work on the walls.

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