Café uses supermarket waste to tackle food poverty

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A new café in Merstham which will use supermarket donated food to create part of its menu has opened.

The Merstham Mix, based in the brand new community hub in Portland Drive, opened 17 November and is aiming to tackle food waste and food poverty in the area.

Unlike other cafés, Merstham Mix will use donated supermarket and local businesses food – consumables that are still perfectly good to eat but that for one reason or another is destined to go to waste. Anna Rooke has been planning the café’s opening for around a year and is excited it’s now finally open.

Miss Rooke, who is front of house and volunteer manager at the café, said: “It mixes up two things really. On one hand we have this big food waste problem in the UK and a huge amount of food gets wasted every year.

“About seven million tonnes from UK households is wasted and about £17bn worth of food is wasted around the UK.

“On the other hand we have the problem of food poverty and there are a lot of people in this country who are accessing food banks and are classed as being in poverty.

“ Reigate and Banstead District is considered to be a fairly affluent area but the area of Merstham is considered an area of deprivation as we have quite a lot of people who use food banks here.”

To begin with, the eatery will be open between 9am and 3pm and will have three members of staff working there, a chef, a front of house assistant and Miss Rooke.

Weekly supermarket donations will be delivered to the café from Foodshare, a charity fighting hunger and food waste around the country, as well as from local businesses including Priory Farm, in Nutfield. It will use the donated food, alongside food it buys in, to create its menu.

Miss Rooke, who lives in Reigate, said: “The idea of the café is to provide low cost healthy food and there will be one meal each day which is particularly low cost and will be free for those who use a food bank.

“There will also be a full range of healthy home cooked food as well as good coffee too so anyone from the community can come in.”

And once Merstham’s newest place to eat and drink has found its feet, the café hopes to offer cookery classes to teach those who either don’t know or may have forgotten basic cooking skills.

“The next thing we would really like to do is to open a cookery hub at the café so we can teach people the skills to cook low cost meals from in their homes,” Miss Rooke said.

“It’s lovely for people to be able to come into the café but a lot of people have actually lost basic cookery skills and that is something that we could try and address and I would love to see that happen.”

Charities Loveworks and Merstham Community Facility Trust have worked together to bring the café to Merstham. Loveworks will soon be using the café to deliver food bank services to people in the area outside of business hours.

If interested in becoming a volunteer at the café, email Mersthammix@gmail.com or go to www.mersthammix.org.uk .

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