Here are answers to our most Frequently Asked Questions
What is Pay As You Feel?
ALL the food and items that Incredible Surplus provides are Pay As You Feel, or #PAYF for short.
That means you contribute however you can to the success of our project: donating your time, skills, money, or something even more imaginative!
Yay! Free food!!
Well, not exactly! The food and items we rescue have value and it costs us to collect them.
We have vehicles, a warehouse, utilities, insurance, training costs… you get the idea. We can only offer things to those who can’t afford to give us much, if those who can, recognise the value of what we’re doing and give us what they can afford.
I don’t have much cash to give you
That’s fine! If you don’t have much spare cash, and can’t afford to donate – don’t worry! We need your help just as much – just ask what you can do to volunteer.
I don’t have time to help you
That’s fine too! If you don’t have much spare time, and can’t volunteer – don’t worry! We need your cash just as much – donate what you think the food is worth to you.
We need donations of cash AND time to maintain this project – neither is more important than the other – just give what you can, and what works for your circumstances.
How do I shop with you?
Remember the tv show Ready Steady Cook? It’s a bit like that.
Come along! See what we have. It’s not like shopping in a big supermarket; you can’t come with a list and expect to find everything on it. We might have everything you’re looking for, (and things you’d never thought to look for!) but the key to making a shop with us work is to be flexible and adaptable to what’s on offer. If you can work with that, you’ll save a fortune while eating some delicious, nutritious meals. Come prepared to embark on a culinary adventure!
How do I volunteer?
There are many ways you can volunteer to help the project. From cooking, cleaning, sorting, laundry, collecting, delivering, litter picking, gardening; there are a lot of ways you can help that don’t need to hurt your wallet!
Everything we do has value and there is value in everything we do.
At the moment, this is complicated due to the Covid-19 situation, as we also need to maintain the safety of everyone volunteering and visiting us, but do still ask.
I offered to volunteer to help out today, but you said you didn’t need me?
In reality, many tasks which are obvious to people when they first arrive (serving, staffing the collection points, driving) are already allocated to regular volunteers – we couldn’t run the project if we just waited to see who showed up wanting to work on the day!
It’s also further complicated by the Covid-19 situation and needing to maintain social distance.
But that doesn’t mean that we can’t use another pair of hands! There’s often less obvious jobs you can still help with – at some of the venues there are gardens you can help out in. You can always help by litter picking around the area. Maybe you could come back later and help with tidying up.
All you need to do is ask and we’ll find you a way to help out, but sometimes people are offended when they offer to do one thing and we ask them to do something else, so please understand our reasons for this. Almost all our volunteers started out doing something completely different to the tasks they’re doing now!
Shouldn’t the food feed the needy, or refugees, or the homeless, or something?
We don’t feed any single group of people. We feed everyone.
In order for us to prove the value and safety of food waste, we couldn’t just feed specific demographics of people. We believe food waste is absolutely fit for human consumption and so that’s who we feed – human beings.
But I’d feel guilty taking food or items that someone else could use!
Don’t worry! That isn’t what the project is about. We’re trying to save perfectly edible food from landfill or usable items otherwise going to waste. Until our food distribution chains improve on the current system, and we become a less throwaway society as a whole, there’s more than enough to go around!
By getting supplies from us and donating, you’re helping to reduce the waste of effort and resources to grow, produce and transport things that would otherwise be wasted. We also can’t keep items indefinitely in case a ‘more worthy’ person comes along later – stuff coming into our warehouse today needs shifting to make room for the stuff coming tomorrow – if you can use it, please take it!
Can you help us? We have no food and our benefits have been stopped.
Firstly, please contact your local Food Bank http://www.findfoodbanksbrum.org.uk/.
If you need benefit advice or information on emergency payments and hardship grants, go to CAB – Citizens Advice Bureau https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk or Birmingham Settlement http://www.birminghamsettlement.org.uk or online help is available from https://www.turn2us.org.uk/. If you have children, your local SureStart, GP, or Health Visitor may be able to help.
We’re not a charity. Our project is Pay-As-You-Feel, so if you come to us, you must be prepared to give something back for what you take – this can be money, but you can also give us your time and/or skills.
Do you get your food from rummaging in supermarket bins?
No! While this might be where the concept of #feedbelliesnotbins, The Real Junk Food Project (our former name) and #freeganism originated, we never, ever source our food or other supplies by rummaging in bins.
All our donated food is exactly that; donated knowingly and willingly by various sources. It always leaves the donor’s premises through official exits and mostly during daylight hours!
Incredible Surplus adheres to all Environmental Health regulations. That includes sourcing safely, recording accurately, transporting correctly, preparing carefully, and cleaning up responsibly too.
If you’re a business and you think you could help us by donating your edible waste food, please get in touch.
Where does the food come from?
All over the place! Mainly retailers and manufacturers, but also schools, allotmenteers, caterers, individuals… anywhere and everywhere you can think of.
As a waste redistribution project, by definition, the food has been identified as waste and donated to us, which can be for a number of reasons:
- Sometimes it’s a simple overstock and the business needs to make room
- Sometimes the label is damaged or it’s an old design
- Cancelled orders
- A bumper crop
- Sometimes the products are customer returns, or rejected substitutions
- Some of the products are past their Best Before date (NEVER past their Use By date) which simply means that they aren’t as fresh as the manufacturer would like them to be
- Sometimes it’s produce that’s nearing the end of its shelf life
Do you take/serve food past its Best Before/Use By date?
We adhere to all Environmental Health regulations. This includes transporting food safely, storing it safely, cooking and re-heating it safely. Many of our kitchen staff are trained chefs with years of experience, and we also encourage and pay for our volunteers to get their Food Hygiene Level 2 qualification.
We intercept food that is surplus to requirements, including past its Best Before date. By law, we cannot accept or distribute food that is past its Use By date.
There’s some helpful information on the Food Standards Agency Website on the difference between Best Before and Use By here:
If you get your items for free, why do I need to pay for it?
Although our items are donated, we still incur costs to distribute them, and if we didn’t cover those costs we wouldn’t be able to operate by law. Things like public liability insurance, food hygiene certificates etc.
Then there are unavoidable running costs – we sadly haven’t yet worked out a way to convert cauliflowers and cucumbers to petrol, utilities, or rent!
We don’t mind how you Pay As You Feel, with cash, time, or skills, but everyone who benefits from the Incredible Surplus on offer is asked to contribute, and it is important that you do, in order for the project to continue.
We don’t like/can’t use white bread/mushrooms/cabbage/meat products etc. please don’t put them in our bag!
We’re sorry if you get products you can’t use if you pick up a food bag from us. Our aim after all is to prevent food waste. But it’s not practical to tailor for individual preferences. Please pass on anything you won’t be able to use to someone who will, or give it back to the person staffing the collection point.
There was something out of date in my bag! Something was mouldy/going bad!
We don’t wilfully give out anything we don’t believe can be used. But, we are human and sometimes our volunteers don’t notice a mouldy item hiding at the bottom of a punnet. That doesn’t mean that the rest of the punnet should be thrown away – prompt sorting and processing can save its neighbours!
There are a wealth of resources online about how to use up all sorts of fruit, veg, bread and other commonly wasted foods. You don’t need to cook and eat it immediately – you can blanche, freeze, pickle, and preserve foods in many ways to extend their life and help your pocket as well as the planet.
We know that by distributing this ‘waste’ produce to people who understand and are ready and able to put it to good use before it’s too late, we’re saving tonnes and tonnes of food from needlessly ending up in the bin, wasting all the energy and effort it took to grow, package and transport. So thank you for helping us to reduce waste!
I don’t always have cash on me. Can I donate online?
Yes, if you have a PayPal account you can donate online here. Please login to your PayPal account when prompted to do so, and if you untick the box marked ‘goods and services’ then we won’t pay any fees on your donation.
Can you cater for an event?
Yes, we do event catering too! We’ve had to scale back on this due to Covid-19, but you can still ask, and we may be able to help.
Can you deliver food to Derby/Wolverhampton/Walsall/Kathmandu? Is there a café like yours near me? Can you come set up a project in my town?
If you live outside of the Birmingham area, you’re welcome to collect from us, but we have no plans to expand beyond the city.
Your best bet is to have a Google for similar waste food projects near you.
Or maybe get a group of like minded people together and set up your own!
You can find out more on our Frequently Asked Questions page.
Incredible Surplus CIC
Company no. 09272180
Unit 58, Western Business Park, Great Western Close, Birmingham. B18 4QF