Whilst attending an Environment Wales Grants Advisory Panel meeting earlier on this year, I was lucky enough to visit Transition Bro Gwaun’s community cafe for lunch with colleagues to sample some of the food that they lovingly prepare. The cafe based in Fishguard, imaginatively transforms food destined for landfill into healthy, affordable meals for the community and has recently celebrated its first birthday.
On arrival we were greeted by a friendly volunteer who had recently been successful in securing a Jobs Growth Wales post with the cafe, which she was obviously thrilled about. We were then welcomed by Chris Samra, Director of Transition Bro Gwaun and Tracey Whistance, the current Environment Wales Management Grant post holder who oversees all of the group’s projects and supports their volunteers. Tracey gave us a quick tour of the cafe and its facilities and described how the whole community had worked together to get the cafe to the point it was at; the building, leased to the group by the Co-op on a peppercorn rent, was in dire need of attention and so local businesses and community members came together with materials, skills and much needed energy and although there was still plenty of work left to be done in terms of making the building more energy efficient, the cafe was able to open its doors to the paying public.
The community cafe prepares food in an energy efficient manner and reduces carbon emissions by preventing an average of 100 kilos of food going to landfill each week.
The obvious problem for a cafe serving donated, surplus food is that it is impossible to predict what might come in on any one day and so the cafe’s chef needs to be both flexible and inventive! Local businesses and members of the community bring food donations daily and collections are also made by volunteers. The food comes from a four mile radius and so food miles are low and the food which is largely perishable can therefore be used quickly. We were told that donations were so abundant that the cafe now needs to identify a manageable volume and are looking at preserving food with a shorter shelf life. The group is also looking at working with other local cafes in order to further limit food waste. Whilst we were at the cafe a community member dropped in an opened box of cereal and although it was explained that the cafe were unable to use opened products to prepare their meals, it could however be added to the pig bin – very little is actually thrown away! Menus also state that if you tend to eat larger or smaller portions, then these can be catered for.
Whilst at the cafe it was clear that it was of value to the community with customers coming and going for the duration, but the cafe also acts as a service point for the local Credit Union and the group also provides Pembrokeshire Action to Combat Hardship (PATCH) food parcels for the community which are partially made up of donated food items.
No opportunity to spread the transition message is missed as artwork representing the transition ethos adorns the cafe’s walls for all customers to see.
I must confess I do tend to be guided by best-by dates on food and steer away from items that are within a day or two of their best-by date, but after my visit to this inspirational community cafe, I am rethinking my approach and am trying to limit my level of food waste by planning ahead and not buying too much – even when there is a buy-one-get-one free offer!