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Lunch with Ronnie and the regulars at the Cosy Crow Cafe

10 October 2016

October 2016

The Cosy Crow Cafe gained a legion of loyal customers within weeks of opening. Their tasty homemade meals, made using surplus food from FareShare North East, proved a big hit with the local older community in Gateshead. There are no set prices, instead customers can put what they can afford into the collection box for dishes like spiced lentil soup and cheese and tomato quiche.

the-cosy-crow-gateshead-2Lunch gets the thumbs-up

The Café was set up by Gateshead Older People’s Assembly (GOPA) to support people aged over 50.  The pay-as-you-feel policy “reduces the stigma and barriers to people coming along” explains Craig Bankhead, Development Manager for (GOPA). But it’s not just the hotpots that keep customers coming back. For people who live alone, it can also be the chance to talk to somebody.

Ronnie and the regulars

Ronnie is one of the regulars. “Ronnie drives here in his three-wheeled Reliant” Craig says. “He’s in his 80s and wasn’t eating enough as he doesn’t have the skills to cook at home. He was signposted here and now he comes along regularly and chats to everyone!”

“A lot of the people who come in are older widowed men who are from traditional families and have never needed to learn to cook” Craig explains. “It can be really difficult to get men to come along and the café has attracted them. There’s four or five regulars, like Ronnie, who come in now. At the start they were sitting on separate tables now they are coming together naturally.”

charden-massimo-and-angela-three-of-our-cafe-volunteersVolunteers Charden, Massimo and Angela in the Cosy Crow kitchen

Tackling malnutrition

It’s estimated that 5,000 of Gateshead’s older population are malnourished or at risk of malnourishment. The reasons are myriad. The ward that Cosy Crow is based in is one of most deprived areas in England, according to multiple deprivation indices, so malnutrition can be down to lack of money for quality food. “It can also be that people are not physically able to chop veg or open a tin” Craig explains. “Some people have Parkinson’s so struggle to prepare food of nutritional value. Or it might be that people who live alone think ‘I’m on my own, I’ll just have a bag of crisps. Why should I cook a roast when it’s just for me?’ It can be a lack of skills too or can even be about proximity to shops.”

FareShare provides the Cosy Crow with the fresh ingredients needed to make nutritious meals. “FareShare gives us an opportunity to feed people for considerably less. It stops us falling into a rut of just making toasties too. We recently had lots of cannellini beans so made a chilli.” He adds “The customers really like things like the fresh fruit from FareShare…and the Mr Kipling cakes!”