Transition cafe volunteers pitched to the Future Dragons Den at Hay Festival this year for the prize of £10,000 to further their aims in stopping food waste in communities across the UK. Transition Community cafe collects surplus food from local businesses, individuals and growers and turn it into affordable meals and preserves in their community cafe, meeting the environmental, economic, and social imperatives that are embedded in the Future Generations Bill about to be passed in Wales.
Their most important mission is to reduce carbon emissions by stopping perfectly good food going to landfill and to change attitudes and more and more people are using the café, understanding that waste is bad both for the environment and their pockets. They are strengthening the local economy and improving social capital by providing training, employment and work experience opportunities for local people particularly the young, the disabled and the long-term unemployed.
Food in the cafe is deliberately affordable and available for everyone in the community. Volunteers eat there or take food home and the demand for the food parcels administered to those in real poverty has increased threefold in 2014 and extends a reach into a part of the community with which it is often more difficult to engage.
There are strong working relationships with local organizations including the RNLI, Sea Trust, Rotary, the local High School and Pembrokeshire Tourism which are also spreading the message out into the community.
They offer an holistic, sustainable business model – an example for others to follow: With an income last year of £10,000, – not yet enough to fully fund staffing needs they place equal importance on making full use of community exchange, gifting, re-using and re-cycling and the all important volunteers, whose time was valued at over £32,000 last year.
This prize will help them to future proof the project: surplus food supplies are increasing significantly – from last years average of 100 kg per week to a recent high of 190kg. What do you do when you receive 30 dozen eggs, 300 ice creams and 5 boxes of cauliflowers all on the same day?
And they need to increase cafe footfall, put on more events, and find more distribution outlets within the community – or disappear under a mountain of surplus food!
By using the money to part fund more staff it will free up more volunteer time to develop the new schemes and systems and reach a wider audience, publicise the projects and generate more custom: part of this will involve by community mapping, needed to identify demand and increase collaborative working; and we need to update IT interaction and make by use of tourism APPS such as Pembrokeshire in your Pocket.
Perhaps the most important aspect of this prize win will be the development of a simple template for setting up and running similar projects in other communities that will enable others to replicate what they do.