Northampton cafe rescues three tonnes of food every week for people on the breadline

Volunteers at Elsies Cafe - part of the Real Junk Food Project - aim to abolish surplus food in Northampton and are doing so with a smile and no judgement.
Volunteers at Elsies Cafe - part of the Real Junk Food Project - aim to abolish surplus food in Northampton and are doing so with a smile and no judgement.

A pay-as-you feel cafe in Northampton is rescuing three tonnes of food a week before it goes to landfill and is turning it into wholesome meals for hungry bellies.

Elsie’s Cafe, of Market Street Community Rooms, serves up hot meals from ingredients intercepted from shops before it is thrown into the bin.

Chef Julie Sironi cooks up wholesome food for the menu at Elsie's Cafe.

Chef Julie Sironi cooks up wholesome food for the menu at Elsie's Cafe.

The cafe runs on a pay-as-you-feel premise where diners are asked to make a donation, whether it’s as little as 10p, £10 or they can offer to volunteer instead.

This is in turn for meals on site, or take-away groceries, pastries and breads, at a subsidised rate, which the cafe can't make use of.

This week volunteers - as part of National End Hunger Week - have been raising awareness of food poverty and have been collecting petitions to fix universal credit.

General manager Shena Cooper said there is no judgement at Elsie's.

Speaking on World Food Day on Tuesday (October 16) general manager Shena Cooper hoped that before Christmas Elsie's Cafe will open a shop to create more space for their rescued food.

Speaking on World Food Day on Tuesday (October 16) general manager Shena Cooper hoped that before Christmas Elsie's Cafe will open a shop to create more space for their rescued food.

“We don’t ask people whether they’re hungry, whether they’re poor or whether they’re on benefits... it’s for everybody.

“This problem is caused by everybody and probably caused more by people who can afford things, rather than the hungry people, and the aim is to change the system.

“The aim is not to end hunger today it’s to end hunger forever.”

The cafe operates as a community interest company and opens its doors to everybody, including those who might be struggling to make ends meet, pensioners who want companionship and campaigners who are passionate about food wastage.

Elsie's Cafe invites people to pick up food at a subsidised rate.

Elsie's Cafe invites people to pick up food at a subsidised rate.

Michelle Richards lives in the town centre and has been using Elsie’s Cafe for two years when she needs extra food to stock up her cupboards.

“I know everyone is short of money from time to time, there’s no shame in saying you are,” she said.

“I have come here in the past and it’s really helped. I don’t come every week - it’s only when I feel like I need to.

“Everyone here is really friendly and they don’t judge anyone. It would cost me a lot more money if I was to go Tesco or Sainsburys and here it’s all for a good cause as well,” she said.

Volunteer Maia Jamieson was on hand to collect donations.

Volunteer Maia Jamieson was on hand to collect donations.

Week-in-week-out volunteers from the cafe work tirelessly to pick up three tonnes of food wastage thrown out by supermarkets and fast food chains including KFC in this town, which would have otherwise gone to landfill.

In the UK every day consumers chuck out 1.4 million bananas and it is estimated that the world produces twice as much food as the population needs.

"The food we rescue and serve is delicious and available to all," Shena added.

"We ask for generous donations of time or money in recognition of the energy and effort of growing and producing this food and to enable Fruitful Abundance to continue collecting, storing and redistributing this food.

"So much has changed in the food industry since we started three-and-a-half-years-ago and now we want to move Northamptonshire to be one of the first zero food waste counties."

Volunteer Herminoe Marquis offers her help at the cafe three times a week.

She said: “It’s definitely been a lifeline for me and my daughter as she gets a hot meal.

“We get all sorts of people come in: the elderly, the homeless.

“People come in and say they have not got any money today but we ask them to volunteer or set up the boutique table instead.”

The cafe opens Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 10am - 1.30pm and Saturday 10-11am.