Ballycastle community cafe serving up left overs in bid to cut waste

The average UK home throws away £700 worth of food every year - even though much of it is perfectly edible, but a cafe that's just opened in County Antrim is tackling waste by using unwanted food to create its daily menu.

In the kitchen at the Courtyard Community Cafe in Ballycastle, Dessie Smyth is chopping rhubarb that has just been donated by a local resident.

“She had so much rhubarb and didn't know what to do with it," says Dessie. "Thankfully she's given it to us and it'll now go into some scones that I’m making.

“We’re cutting waste one slice at a time.”

The cafe takes food from local businesses and from individuals, but major supermarkets have signed up to the project too.

“We started with our local Co-Op store, and now we have Asda, Sainsbury’s, Lidl, and Tesco.”

Jenni Smyth looks after the customers.

She says: “The idea is simple. Food nearing its sell-by date isn’t dumped, it’s cooked. It’s still fresh and tasty and nutritious and we produce wonderful hot meals, cakes, soups, and sandwiches.”

One challenge is the mystery of what donations will arrive. “We haven’t a clue when the day begins what foods will be delivered here,” laughs Dessie.

“It means our menu changes every day, but it’s remarkable what you can create from food that otherwise would be thrown away.”

Katie Morgan, chairperson of Ballycastle Community Hub, says: “This all began as a project about food waste with a strong message to stop people throwing good food in the bin, but it has grown and grown. We have cookery demonstrations, jam-making classes, a drop-in for community groups, and we’re just starting a Baby Bank that will provide new mums with baby clothes, toiletries, cots, and so much more.”

Throughout the day, donations keep coming – sometimes from unexpected sources.

Local man Stephen McKinley arrived in a car filled with high-protein exercise foods. His brother Niall who owned a gym died last week and Stephen was donating his brother’s power foods to the café. “I think he would like to see everything going to people who can make use of it. It’s my way of keeping his memory going to know that he’s still helping the community.”

Community is a word that’s used a lot in the Courtyard Cafe. Its team of dedicated volunteers provide a safe space for women’s and men’s groups. There’s a crèche facilty, and residents of a local care home are regular visitors.

A cafe that was created to battle food waste, is tackling deprivation, combating isolation and boosting mental health.

This is a haven where nothing is wasted.

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