“It feels like we celebrate Harvest every week”

Pioneer minister Tim Watson writes about the impact of a “Trash Cafe” hosted at St Faith’s Church, Gosport in the Diocese of Portsmouth. To read about the Leesland Pioneer Project see www.leesland.co.uk

On Tuesday evenings at St. Faith’s in Gosport we host a Trash cafe. The Trash Cafe is part of a social enterprise, The Real Junk Food Project South Coast. Managed and co-ordinated by Chloe Palmer, it is part of the Real Junk Food Project movement that originated in Leeds.

At the Trash Cafe we serve fresh cooked meals and have a shopping boutique of foods and assorted items – both the cafe and boutique are “pay what you feel”. Some people pay with money, some people pay by lending a hand and helping to run the cafe.

What is special about Chloe’s Trash Cafe is that, as with other Real Junk Food Projects, they make use of food that is past best before or no longer required by supermarkets. Over the course of the week, Chloe travels around a selection of local supermarkets and collects foods and other items that are either past best before, end of lines, in some way damaged or simply no longer wanted. It is this food – that would have ultimately been wasted – that is made use of. Perhaps there are some bread and cakes that are out of date, but still usable. Perhaps there is an end of line range of tea bags that are no longer required, or a change of seasonal foods that mean we have plenty of summer spice mixes to use up.

As we set up for the Trash Cafe I put out chairs and tables while Mat Walker, a volunteer from St. Faith’s and a local resident, begins preparing the kitchen. Chloe arrives with a car-full of food in crates and we set-up the shopping boutique, then Mat and Chloe start cooking meals. Various other volunteers pop-in and out. In the last few weeks we’ve had home-made pasta, stone-baked sourdough pizzas, home-made grapefruit marmalade (we get a lot of grapefruits) and a winter-spiced vegetable soup made from vegetables collected by a local church at their Harvest Festival.

Over the course of the evening we might see up to 50 people come through the doors of St. Faith’s. Some come to eat, others to shop. We have regulars who do most of their week’s shopping with us, while others come in to be cooked a meal. Others choose to come to the Trash Cafe as a lifestyle choice, not wanting to see good food going to waste. Any income that is generated by the Trash Cafe gets pumped straight back into the social enterprise, a percentage of the income is offered to St. Faith’s to help pay for running costs, or for St. Faith’s to invest back into the Trash cafe to pay for ingredients for a special meal like a Trash Cafe Christmas meal.

The Trash cafe is part of a social enterprise that Chloe invests so much of herself in, it’s her project, but we are delighted to partner with her at St. Faith’s. Across Gosport she uses other venues throughout the week. The St. Faith’s Trash Cafe came about because we had a usable venue and I was aware that the Trash cafe could potentially meet many needs in our community.

It’s a place for people to meet and socialise. It’s a place to eat healthy food that does not break the bank, and it’s a great way to stop food being wasted. When looking at establishing new initiatives I naturally turn to the Anglican Five Marks of Mission and the Trash Cafe meets many of them. It’s a place of loving service, a place where unjust systems regarding food waste are challenged, it’s also a place where care of creation is top of the agenda.

Sharing Tuesdays with Chloe, Mat and the other volunteers is a privilege and honour. We are beginning to see some wonderful interaction between the Trash Cafe, the church community and the local residents. Regular volunteers, church members and customers have recently worked together to tidy up the overgrown grounds of the church. Its early days but the Trash Cafe is proving to be a hub and testing ground for potential community projects. There have been conversations about the possibility of community allotments, of having a baby/toddler clothes swap, of providing space for other community groups to meet before and after the Trash Cafe.

At this time of year, as churches and communities across the country celebrate Harvest Festival, I’m more aware than ever, that at the Trash Cafe it feels like we celebrate Harvest every week, quite simply because we can never fully know what food we will have in the boutique and cafe, and because by nature, at Trash Cafe the Harvest is never taken for granted.

Tim Watson
Pioneer Minister

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