Do you like good food, reducing waste, offering support and dignity to those in vulnerable positions and building strong communities? If the answer is yes (and if you’re in the vicinity of Gateshead!), I highly recommend a visit to the Cosy Crow Cafe in Deckham. Miss Mini-Apprenctice, my friend and I visited this week and we are all keen to return soon.
The Cosy Crow Cafe is run by Gateshead Older People’s Assembly from 12.30-3pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays. It launched last month, and we must have heard about it on Twitter shortly after, as we have been salivating at the menus each week as they pop up online. We weren’t sure if it was open to all, so it wasn’t until we saw a review from Canny Foods that we had the confidence to pop along and try it for ourselves.
We arrived to a warm welcome from the friendly, hospitable and attentive staff. Miss Mini-Apprentice opted for a wrap with a side of pasta bake, my friend chose the quiche and I took the opportunity to try my first ever corned beef pie. The food was really tasty, and while the portions are small, we were offered seconds, which is a really sensible, waste-reducing way to work.
This week’s menu
Pecorino + Cherry Tomato Pasta Bake
Corned Beef, Leek & Potato Pie
Cheese & Onion Quiche
Ham & Cheese or Cheese & Tomato Wraps
Meat Free Sausage Rolls
Sausage & Cannellini Beans
Raspbery Crumble Muffins, Assorted Cakes & Biscuits
The menu changes weekly, as the ingredients are provided by local charity Fare Share North East. They acquire perfectly edible food that is destined for landfill and pass it on to member charities, who also include centres for victims of domestic violence, homeless organisations and kids clubs. Last year, FareShare North East provided food for 350,000 meals in the region, and saved more than 140 tonnes of food going to waste.
Between courses, we admired the artwork on the walls: photographs, paintings and sketches, presumably produced by Assembly members, and historical photography. Miss Mini-Apprentice got chatting to a lady who, it turns out, used to live on our street. She talked vividly about the war and how her dad had painted the house number on the wall in white paint to make it more legible in torchlight- and the paint was there until the building was demolished last month. We walked past it every day! What a precious memory to share, and I know that our little girl will remember it, and it will help give context and vitality to her understanding of her history books.
I’m not sure what Miss Mini-Apprentice selected for her pudding, as she devoured it before I could register! However my friend and I both thoroughly enjoyed the raspberry muffins- a real treat.
At the end of the meal we had a great chat with manager Craig Bankhead. We wondered if the camera crew discreetly filming the staff was a regular fixture, but it turns out it was a one off recording for a Sky TV channel. Certainly, there’s been plenty of interest in this scheme, as it’s quite revolutionary, and filling a much needed support and care role in the community. The Guardian recently published an article about the work in the cafe.
Talking to Craig, and his assistant Lola, it is clear that this a team that loves people and serving the community. The OPA cafe allows members the chance to meet together, catch up and socialise, which has a very positive impact on mental health, warding off loneliness and forming strong communities. It also has an impact on physical health, ensuring that people have access to a healthy, nutritional meal. Statisticicians estimate that 1.3million older people in the UK suffer from malnutrition and more than a fifth of over 60s skip meals to cut back on food costs. A worrying percentage of the OPA members admit to not eating enough, often due to financial hardship, but sometimes because cooking for one seems like more bother than it’s worth.
There are no prices listed on the menu of the Cosy Crow Cafe, as it is a Pay As You Wish/Want/Can concept. Instead of choosing to give the meals away for free, diners are afforded the choice and dignity to pay within their means, or, if they prefer, not to pay at all. I love that not only does this enable the charity to raise precious funds to cover their costs, it also allows those who have low, modest and comfortable means to come together as a community and enjoy sharing a meal and some time together.
Opening hours (currently 12.30-3pm) are based on customer demand, so please, if you think this sounds like a great idea, come along and support it. It could have an invaluable role in improving the lives and spirits of our older neighbours. Please help spread the word about this invaluable resource!
FareShare North East would welcome enquires from both food organisations wishing to donate as well as new community projects that would like to receive food. Get in touch here.
OPA are are also always looking for volunteers, so if you’d like to gain some experience (and a food hygiene qualification) by helping out in the cafe, do get in touch.