Food with a Conscience – Initiatives in the North East

Over my time blogging with Canny Food I have come across some fantastic local projects that I’ve shared with you. From foodbanks to Pay As You Feel cafes, we try to champion these causes as we understand the importance of supporting the important work being done by the volunteers in these communities. With the festive season approaching, I thought a round-up post highlighting some we’ve visited over the last year would be a good way of prompting us to consider the ways in which we can all do a little more to assist those in need.

Cafe from Crisis, Newcastle City Centre

We regularly pop in for a bargain lunch at the Cafe from Crisis, located on the City Road in Newcastle. There’s always at least one vegan option on the menu and Dinky enjoys the sweet treats they have on offer.

The cafe offers a practical training programme for anyone who wants to work within the hospitality and catering industry. They offer a combination of hands on experience in the cafe alongside the opportunity to gain skills for employment, training and personal development.

You can read more about the cafe here.

Vinnie’s, Blackfriars Ouseburn

We were thrilled to visit Vinnie’s recently and learn more about the work being done in the Ouseburn community. Vinnie’s is a drop-in cafe located upstairs in the St. Vincent’s Blackfriars Cafe on a Tuesday between 11am and 2pm. Run by a team of volunteers, this initiative is aimed at those who are on low incomes or who are homeless to receive a home cooked meal. The project receives donations from the public and from local supermarkets which helps them craft a menu on a weekly basis.

River Hotel, Gateshead

The view from The Vault

Michel Roux Jnr was recently in Gateshead for the launch of the UK’s first hotel which trains young people with autism and learning difficulties. The chef has a long track record of mentoring young people to help them find work in the hospitality industry and agreed to head north to meet the young trainees and officially unveil The Rivers Hotel. Roux said, “What the hospitality industry needs is places like this. It’s not about looking at people’s disabilities, it’s focusing on their abilities and giving them options. It’s been an absolute pleasure and an honour to be able to come and see what is being done here.”

The Rivers Hotel was taken over in early 2016 by the St Camillus Care Group, with the aim of using it as a training facility for young people with learning difficulties and autism to get real, valuable experience of every aspect of the hospitality industry. We visited last summer to try out the food on offer at The Vault, which you can read about here.

Refuse, Chester-le-Street

As someone who has supported Refuse for a while I was thrilled to hear about their latest venture. Currently in the throes of renovating a cafe in Chester-le-Street, the plan is to be up and running unofficially in time to provide food for those in need over the festive period. The USP of this cafe is that it will be serving up food that has been discarded by supermarkets and other shops for being past its ‘best before’ date.

This is not your typical cafe as it will operate on a ‘pay as you feel’ basis. The food I’ve had at the numerous pop-up events I’ve been to has been lovely, and my dietary requirements have been catered for too. I’m looking forward to popping along once the doors have officially opened in the New Year. You can follow the progress on Twitter here.

Chilli Bizarre, Newcastle

After visiting Vinnie’s we noticed a quirky little cafe next door and made a note to pop by to give it a try. What I hadn’t realised was Chilli Bizarre was a front of sorts for a fantastic initiative, and it was only after my visit I discovered more. True to their mission statement (‘Creatively Improving Mental Health’), Chilli Studios provides art and music studio space to individuals with mental health issues from across Newcastle and have established a close-knit community of artists who express themselves across a wide range of creative mediums. This refurbished ethical cafe is bedecked with work created in the studios available to buy, with all the monies going back into Chilli Studios to help them further their community objectives. The menu is limited, especially for those with dietary requirements such as my own, but usually stretches to a bowl of soup of a Jacket Potato with Beans.

For me it was more about the warm welcome and how friendly everyone was with Dinky. A child-friendly environment and a cuppa is usually enough to satisfy me when we’re out and about. 

It is worth popping in for a decent cup of coffee and a browse at the art on the walls. Dinky was entertained by a selection of toys and books, so even with little ones in tow you will find they’ll be occupied. Find out more about Chilli Bizarre here.

Thanks for reading,

Pip x

1 Comment

  1. Jennifer Bliss

    Great photos! Wonderful eats! Colorful Art! Totally agree with the volunteering!!! And I wish there were more ‘pay as you feel’ cafes!


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