Pay as you feel café celebrates busy start as community hub

SOCIAL ENTERPRISE: Café founder Charlie Moore (left) and volunteer Vicki Titley

Charlie’s Angels Kitchens on Camden Road has enjoyed major success since opening its doors on January 5, with volunteers and customers regularly filling the bustling ‘pay as you feel’ café.

Café founder Charlie Moore says the early success is down to the ‘family’ of volunteers who help organise food drop-offs, serve customers and work in the kitchen.

“It’s been amazing, I love it so much and I believe in it so much. The volunteers that I’ve got just fill me with joy every day, they’re amazing people. Without the volunteers we wouldn’t be here,” she said.

Charlie and her volunteer ‘angels’ cook with supplies from food waste charities FareShare and The Gleaning Network, serving toasties, pastries and hot meals using seasonal and surplus produce that would otherwise go to waste. 

“People who knew food waste was an issue didn’t know how to access it, so we’ve just formed a conduit for people to access the great food, that shouldn’t be wasted but usually is,” Charlie explained.

Prices are organised in a tiered bronze, silver and gold system ranging from £5 to £20, but all customers are welcome to pay whatever they can, with the option to eat for free. 

“Everyone is really nice and friendly, we don’t even look at the price people choose to pay,” said Volunteer Vicki Titley.

For those wanting to pay that little bit extra, there’s a ‘suspended drinks’ board which allows customers to buy a soft or hot drink for somebody who cannot afford to buy their own.

With gender-neutral bathrooms, free nappies and sanitary products, Charlie has made sure that nobody will feel excluded from the space.

“I don’t want there to be any shame, if I could get rid of anything it would be shame,” she said.

Seven weeks in, Charlie already has plans to expand the café’s community role, including training students from Oaks Specialist College in Tonbridge.

The students, aged 16 to 18, will soon be working at the café once a week for a full year, developing cooking, cleaning, and customer service skills in preparation for future employment.

Their lessons will be run on the café’s third floor, which Charlie is currently looking for donations to re-carpet.

The café is also set to hold male mental health evenings with ‘Dad la Soul’, working to tackle social isolation amongst dads.

In its first event outside of Worthing, the non-profit group will run social and support evenings in the café.

“There’s really something here for everyone. This to me is just giving an opportunity to people who are struggling, because they’re joining the cause, they’re reducing food waste,” Charlie said.

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