How Wakefield's Cathedral Kitchen cafe is helping to alleviate food poverty and reduce waste

Adam Smith, The Real Junk Food Project founder.
Adam Smith, The Real Junk Food Project founder.

The team behind a social enterprise cafe in Wakefield have forged a partnership with The Real Junk Food Project to prevent wastage. Laura Drysdale reports.

The efforts of the team behind Wakefield’s Cathedral Kitchen already support the preservation of what is perhaps the city’s most grandiose landmark and through a new partnership to help reduce waste and alleviate food poverty, they are going the extra mile to make an even greater difference to their local community.

Wakefield's Cathedral Kitchen has partnered with The Real Junk Food Project in a new initiative that will see the social enterprise cafe run pay as you feel meal events.

Wakefield's Cathedral Kitchen has partnered with The Real Junk Food Project in a new initiative that will see the social enterprise cafe run pay as you feel meal events.

For Ea Nielsen, who has been at the helm of the social enterprise cafe for more than two years, turning seasonal produce into a healthy and nutritious menu that raises money for the historic Cathedral, is all in a day’s work.

She and her team are no strangers to creating and serving a changing daily offering of home-cooked meals and cakes - and they have now begun doing so from food that was destined for the bin.

Time to tackle Yorkshire's food poverty scandal: Niall Cooper
“Everything is made from scratch and we are now using food that would have gone in an incinerator otherwise,” catering manager Ea says. “We use it to cook lovely, affordable dishes.”

The cafe, run by the Cathedral, has teamed up with The Real Junk Food Project (TRJFP), an initiative based in the city that intercepts perfectly edible food set for waste from restaurants, supermarkets and independent retailers and distributes it to pay as you feel cafes, schools and community groups, with the motto of #FeedBelliesNotBins.

Last week, the Cathedral Kitchen, which serves lunch six days a week, received its first delivery from the Kindness Warehouse, Wakefield’s first pay as you feel supermarket and the headquarters of TRJFP.

It will now get a weekly supply of eight crates of food that, although may have passed its best before date or been declared surplus, is still safe to eat. As well as using this food for its daily dishes, the cafe will also launch a new initiative in September.

Yorkshire’s food poverty crisis shames us all - The Yorkshire Post says
Every three months, it will host an Eat Up Stand Up event, providing a pay as you feel meal for attendees, as well as speakers, music and children’s activities, based around a particular theme. The topic for the first will be food waste and in December, the theme is homelessness.

It is hoped the new scheme will not only reduce food waste, and cut overhead costs for the cafe, but raise awareness of the very real existence of issues including food poverty and give people tips and ideas on how to alleviate it across the city.

“Food poverty I would say is quite a big problem and it is frightening,” Ea says. “I am from Denmark and I find it really scary - I haven’t come across one food bank there as of yet.”

Though she finds the issue worrying, she believes the food banks do invaluable work, providing those in need with somewhere to access resources without any questions asked.

She hopes the Cathedral Kitchen’s pay as you feel nights will encourage people to recognise that there are others struggling and think more about what they can do to help.

‘I don’t know what I’d do’ - Desperate families say food banks are a lifeline in the school holidays
The food project is not the only way the cafe is helping its local community. Since October last year, it has supported Camphill Wakefield, a specialist college for young people from Yorkshire and beyond with special educational needs and disabilities, through a scheme to give students experience in a work environment.

Ea is now offering a paid job of several hours each week to the first student that the cafe took on through a voluntary placement and is now supporting another Camphill pupil with work experience.

“It’s such an interesting project to be part of and so rewarding to watch the students grow and see what benefit they get from it,” Ea says. “As a local business you can make such a difference by giving so little – it would be stupid not to.”

The first Eat Up Stand Up session takes place at the Cathedral Kitchen, Wakefield, at 6.30pm on Monday, September 9.