From waste to taste

Nov 2013-16-24The Transition Community Cafe in Fishguard makes use of waste food to produce good quality hearty meals for the community. Since this article on the cafe, by Tess Riley, was published in our Spring/Summer edition, the cafe won £10,000 in the ‘Future Dragons’ Den’ at the Hay Festival. They will use the money to help expand the enterprise and spread the word, encouraging other communities to take on the challenge of opening their own cafe.

As Transition Bro Gwaun member Ann Bushell was trawling local businesses for waste vegetables to feed her chickens, it dawned on her just how much edible food was going to landfill. It was this realisation which eventually led to the birth of the Transition Community Cafe in Fishguard in June 2013.

The cafe now opens four days a week in the centre of Fishguard, on the southwest tip of Wales. The thriving Transition Cafe makes lowcost, healthy meals and preserves from products with a short shelf-life, including fruit, vegetables, dairy, bakery goods and a small amount of meat.

“I always find it hard to believe that what comes out on the plate is made from gluts and surplus from the community,” says local resident Paul. “The food here is worthy of any high-class restaurant!”

As the waste food can’t be predicted, the menu changes daily. The typical ingredients the cafe receives means that most of the meals served are vegetarian, such as quiche, vegetable gratin and curry, and they try to have at least one gluten-free option available each day. Popular puddings include fruit crumbles, sponges and pies. With prices from £2.00-£4.00 for a main course, and £1.50-£2.50 for a pudding, the cafe’s customers aren’t complaining.

“Bendigedig! [fantastic in Welsh] And so reasonable – long may it last!” says happy customer Carys.

According to the Love Food Hate Waste campaign, Wales produces an estimated 400,000 tonnes of household food and drink waste every year, the majority of which is sent to landfill. That’s £700 per household thrown in the bin.

Like Transition Bro Gwaun’s other major projects – renewable community energy and skill sharing – the cafe focuses on carbon reduction. Turning food waste into delicious meals means no methane emissions from rotting food, and surplus food is collected within a four mile radius of the cafe to keep fossil fuel emissions down.

“We have an energy monitor in the kitchen to monitor how much electricity we’re using, and we try to reduce it wherever possible,” says co-organiser Chris Samra. “We also monitor our storage systems – there’s no point in rescuing food from landfill if we then use lots of energy keeping it frozen for ages.”

Local support has been key to sustaining Fishguard’s Transition Cafe. The enthusiasm of the local Co-operative shop manager led to the cafe’s installation rent-free in an empty building next door. The property was then renovated thanks to the generosity of local businesses and volunteers, plus several grants.

The cafe team say that it has been particularly successful in attracting volunteers from a much wider cross-section of the community than ‘traditional’ Transitioners. It provides a meeting place for local groups, addresses food poverty, promotes ideas for sustainable living and offers valuable work experience for local people. In the words of Chris Samra: “The Transition Community Cafe demonstrates that a food system characterise by waste, food miles and low social benefit isn’t our only option.”

Tess Riley is a freelance journalist who writes about food, the environment and communities, and co-edits the Food pages of Transition Free Press. 

Subscribe to the digital edition of Transition Free Press here at Exact Editions or sign up to get the paper version through your door.

Photo: By Brian Jackson. Sarah Purbrick, Rosi Jones and Fay Ford work in the cafe.

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