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New cafe to tackle food waste

The new REfUSE Cafe in Chester-le-Street.
The new REfUSE Cafe in Chester-le-Street.
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A new community cafe aimed at tackling food waste is being launched in County Durham

REfUSE, a North-east based community company, is opening the full-time cafe in Chester-le-Street this week.

It will be run predominantly by volunteers and on food surplus from local suppliers, the cafe will operate on a ‘pay as you feel’ basis and aims to respond to the rising issues of food waste and food poverty in the area.

Every year in the UK seven million tonnes of edible food is sent to landfill, whilst at the same time, 8.4 million people are regularly going hungry.

Organisations like REfUSE, as well as others part of the Real Junk Food Network, are working to combat these crazy statistics, by ‘refusing’ to be part of the current broken food system.

Established in Durham in 2015 by local residents Nikki Dravers and Mim Skinner, REfUSE began by running pop-up restaurant events – creating hearty and delicious meals once a month for often hundreds of local people, all from food which would have otherwise been sent to the bin.

After discovering the extent of the problem; sometimes being asked by local supermarkets, grocers or wholesalers to pick up entire van-loads of milk or yoghurts or bread or vegetables, the two women and their growing team of staff and volunteers decided that a more ambitious approach was required.

In October 2017, REfUSE obtained a lease for an ex-warehouse on Chester-le-Street high street.

With the help of charitable local businesses and volunteers, the organisation has spent the last five months transforming the derelict space into a beautiful community cafe, which will be officially opened at the launch party on Friday.

Nikki, said: "We’re so excited to finally be able to open this space. It’s only through the tireless efforts of our volunteers and supporters that this is happening.

"We owe them all so many thanks. Hopefully now that the cafe is finished, we can get on with the next small challenge: of eradicating food waste in the North East.”

Mim, added: "We want this cafe to be at the heart of the Chester-le-Street community. Because we operate on a pay-as-you-feel basis, every single local person can benefit from and contribute to this place.

"Whether it’s buying a coffee, donating your time, using the space for a local group meeting or swapping your skills for a sandwich, the REfUSE cafe is here to serve local people – in all senses of the word.”