As pay-what-you-feel café “struggles to stay afloat” after becoming a community food hub during the pandemic, writes volunteer Melanie […]By Waltham Forest Echo
As pay-what-you-feel café “struggles to stay afloat” after becoming a community food hub during the pandemic, writes volunteer Melanie Strickland…
I’ve been volunteering with The Gleaners at The Hornbeam, in Bakers Arms, since the café transformed into a community food redistribution centre in response to the Covid-19 crisis.
Having been a regular at the café in previous years, it’s been great to give something back and connect with all the wonderful people that make Gleaners/Hornbeam a special place. I love the way solidarity is put into practice here.
Thanks to public support, we are still open six days a week and open to all on a pay-what-you-feel basis, as we were before the pandemic. Over the past year, we have primarily supported those hit hardest by the pandemic, who have come to the café most days for a delicious vegan lunch, groceries, and to see a friendly face.
At the time of writing, we have served over 35,000 meals, mostly for free, to support our local community. As the economic consequences of Covid continue to unfold, we don’t expect any reduction in demand, especially on our grocery days which are currently Mondays and Thursdays.
We are not a food bank – everyone in the community is welcome here and there are no referral forms. This is solidarity, not charity.
But we are again struggling to stay afloat and exploring new ways to become financially sustainable.
We have just launched a new subscription service. The subscription is essentially a pledge made by those who can afford to be paying customers at the café, who sign up for food and drinks, in turn supporting those in our community who are limited in what is affordable to them to access the same, healthy food.
This mixed economy has always been the vision for the café, but the challenges of Covid have meant finding new ways to realise it. In the future, we look forward to reopening as a café (once restrictions are lifted), and we want to ensure that everyone in the community can enjoy healthy food here regardless of income.
If you live nearby, membership involves delicious lunches and other tasty food and drinks, either for pick-up or delivery. If further afield, membership involves a quarterly newsletter with stories and recipes from the café and nationwide delivery of our products made in-house, such as kimchi, peach chutney, granola and pickles to name a few…