Jaqui's Daily Blog

Empty Plates and Thinking About Other People's Stomachs

As everyone who knows me - whether as family / friend / reader / occasional Dipper Into The Daily Blog (please delete as appropriate) - is aware, I am renowned as one who is Always Thinking About Her Stomach.

Imagine my excitement, therefore, when I heard that the theme of our latest Voluntary Sector Forum held yesterday and which I was to chair, was to be - yes, as usual, you are there ahead of me - "Food." I was licking my lips at the very thought of it. I was, I must admit, just a tad worried when I was told that we were meeting at a new venue, a place called The Empty Plate Café. Empty plate? What, really, truly empty?

It was certainly my day to feel humbled. Firstly I discovered that the Empty Plate Café is just a few streets away from my house. How can I have lived in this town for more than thirty years and still need to refer to my trusty book of local maps to find my way around my very own neighbourhood? To be fair, the Empty Plate Café has only been open a few weeks - but I should have known the location of its base, the Lovett Centre. I think maybe I should buy myself a bicycle and go cycling around, covering a number of local routes each day until I know my neighbourhood like the back of my hand. It would be a bit like when the Son In Law was studying for The Knowledge in order to qualify as a London black cab driver. Only not nearly so onerous. Mr B thinks the idea of me on a bicycle is only slightly less scary than the thought of potential team changes which Mr Hodgson might make before England heads into its next match in Euro 2016.

There is, I note on arrival, food set out on a table and coffee is being served. I set off towards the coffee station but there are just so many people to talk to on my way across the room that it is looking as if I might have to call the meeting to order and start chairing before I can grab a cuppa. All of a sudden, the Lovely Lucy appears at my elbow with a cup of coffee just for me. Bless her, she knows me so well.

Then came enlightenment on the philosophy behind the Empty Plate Café. It is the first Pay As You Feel Café in West Sussex, taking food donated from stores like Morrisons, Marks and Spencer and Tescos and turning it into delicious meals for customers who may or may not be able to pay the going rate. It's aimed particularly at the young, the old, local families, homeless people - at anyone who may be having to choose between heating their home, paying a bill, or cooking a meal. Mark, the modest mastermind behind the project, thinks nobody should have to make that choice in this day and age. He wants to ensure they can enjoy a delicious, hot, wholesome meal while at the same time he is cutting down on perfectly good food going to landfill.

Just in case anyone is worried that the food donated for the café's use is past its best, Mark has set out fruit, vegetables, bread so we can see the quality for ourselves. I love the story of two particular donations - jars upon jars of mayonnaise, with months to go before the sell-by date but unsellable because their labels carry the Christmas greeting "Ho! Ho! Ho!" Similarly jars of Nutella carrying the exhortation "Enjoy Pancake Day!" All put to excellent use at the Empty Plate Café. In the kitchen, Mark and his fellow volunteers - yes, they give up their time and their cooking skills for no monetary reward, just think of that! - are preparing hot meals for the happy diners who will be queuing up outside to take over the tables when we leave.

While I am still digesting all this information, more speakers stand up to tell the assembled audience about other fantastic "foodie" projects which are underway locally including one designed to help local fishermen and another to create a food network. Every one of our speakers has so much energy, so many ideas, such infectious enthusiasm.

And, I have to admit with utmost humility, none of them were Thinking About Their Own Stomachs...

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Latest comments

23.04 | 20:15

lovely and heartwarming - an inspiration to us all x

09.03 | 12:07

Love this story told as ever beautifully.x

10.11 | 21:31

What a super account of a special event. I loved meeting you last night and seeing your creation come together. I’m so pleased you got so much from the activity

07.09 | 13:17

I have broad shoulders x

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