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A Magazine for Sheffield

"Anyone and everyone is welcome in the kitchen": Food Works cafe goes from strength to strength

Food Hub Manager Zoe tells us about the social enterprise's cafe at Zest, the 'vibrant social heart' of the community centre and a hotbed of budding volunteer chefs.

Food Works are passionate about improving food networks and contributing to a better, more sustainable food system in Sheffield. A non-profit social enterprise, they cook with surplus and local ingredients, as well as growing their own produce on their farm.

We spoke to Zoe Hunter, Food Hub Manager at Food Works, to learn more about their cafe at the Zest Centre in Upperthorpe and how a community approach to food can make a positive difference.

Tell us more about what you do at Upperthorpe.

The Zest Centre has always been a great supporter of Food Works. They offered us a space to use as our base when we set up eight years ago.

Storage was a bit of a problem, but now we have our own warehouse and we’ve been running our cafe there ever since. The cafe brings a vibrant social heart to the centre, and for us it is great to be located in a community centre alongside so many other valuable local services.

How many people volunteer at Food Works?

We have volunteers from all backgrounds that come in to help us out. Anyone and everyone is welcome in the kitchen and the help and time we get from volunteers is very much appreciated.

Food works and food waste 2

Food Works volunteer Sophie takes food waste home for use on her allotment.

Zoe Hunter

Since joining Food Works as one of the Food Hub Managers, I have built a close team of regular volunteers that come in weekly. It’s great to see the volunteers progress as their confidence and creativity grows.

As well as regular volunteers, we get a lot of regular customers who always give us great feedback on our meals. I’ve had someone who's been coming in every day since I started my role in May. This creates a warm, community feel in our cafe.

What can people look forward to on the menu?

Before I started my role as Food Hub Manager, I was a volunteer myself. I helped out in both cafes Sharrow and Upperthorpe. Baking is one of my favourite things to do and so you can always look forward to exciting homemade bakes created by the volunteers and myself.

Soup of the day and homemade croutons are on our menu in autumn and winter and this is the perfect pick-me-up. We always have a vegetarian and vegan option on the board which gives a variety of choice to suit everyone's needs.

What have been your favourite dishes?

Aubergine parmigiana is known as the go-to dish at Upperthorpe. It's great for batch cooking and seems to be a favourite at our cafe.

Due to the randomness of our ingredients supply, every day and every meal is different. I hope we can find some time to share all the wonderful recipes we’ve come up with in the future. Volunteers often share things they have cooked or their favourite recipes on our internal forums.

Food works just meals 2

Food Works cooks and freezes its 'upcycled' meals, which are then sold on a 'pay as you feel' basis.

Zoe Hunter

Do you have any tips for reducing food waste?

There's always ways to prevent food waste. Many volunteers have allotments so all our food waste from the day is taken for compost. I also have a good working relationship with Alder and Leaf and Shoot, who are always happy to take our food waste to use for their compost and self-irrigating plants.

A great tip to prevent food waste is preparation. This is a daily thing we do at Upperthorpe. It allows you to know what you have, how much you have and what needs using up. It helps you plan out your week for cooking and can be helpful on the days when you don’t fancy chopping vegetables, as you can throw everything straight into a pan, roasting tin or frying pan and create a delicious meal.

How can people follow the action at Food Works?

We would love for everyone to join our growing community for change. Find out how you can join our team of volunteers, make a donation if you are able, and keep in touch by signing up to our newsletter. You can follow us for news of our menus and activities on social media.

Learn more

The Food Works Upperthorpe cafe at the Zest Centre has wheelchair access from reception and a disabled toilet.

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