The Oxford Food Surplus Cafe
Community Action Groups Oxfordshire
The Oxford Food Surplus Cafe reduces food waste and helps to help redress the imbalance in our food system by reclaiming surplus food and transforming it into delicious healthy meals accessible to all
The Oxford Food Surplus Cafe was set up to help redress the imbalance in our food system by reclaiming surplus food and transforming it into delicious healthy meals accessible to all. The idea was born out of Feeding the Gaps, a community research project looking at the state of food poverty in Oxford, which highlighted the absence of support for people without access to affordable healthy food which did not require a diagnosis, a label or some other form of stigma. So the volunteer organisers set up the cafe to create an inclusive space to encourage community engagement and reconnect people with the food they eat.
Surplus food is collected the day before an event. The majority comes from the Oxford Food Bank, a charity which collects unwanted stock from retailers and wholesalers and redistributes it to services across the city. The cafe takes the surplus of that surplus, anything which can’t be used elsewhere, and the cooking team plan a menu out of the sometimes random collection of ingredients. The cafes have been held at various community centres across the city, in a pop-up style, often in collaboration with existing community events or initiatives. Using the pay as you feel system, customers are able to contribute either what they can afford or what they think the food, space and idea are worth. Any profits from events are either invested in equipment, used for future events or donated to local causes.
Outcomes and benefits delivered:
The Food Surplus Café is one of over 60 community groups across Oxfordshire supported by the Community Action Group (CAG) Project, Europe’s largest local network of community groups and organisations working on waste and carbon reduction. Since launching in April 2014, the cafe has run roughly once a month, with an average of 350 customers at each event. In 2015 the cafe won Best New Group at the Oxfordshire Charity and Volunteer Awards. During last year the café has prevented nearly 1.5 tonnes of food waste and 5 tonnes of carbon.
In January 2017 they are holding a new volunteer drive to encourage a new intake of support for working in the kitchen, including providing accredited food safety training.