Situated East of the city, the area of Walker is one of Newcastle’s poorest neighbourhoods. Unemployment and food poverty are high, and there are few opportunities for young people in the area. That’s why in 2004, 15 local women started a sandwich delivery service to raise funds for community trips during school holidays, something many families couldn’t afford on their own. Building on their success, they incorporated as Community Catering Initiative Ltd to trade as a community café. The women are now employed full-time and run the café from the Pottery Bank Community Centre.

Community Catering Initiative’s mission is to provide healthy and affordable food, and training and employment opportunities to residents. They regularly ask their community what matters to them which directly influences what services they offer and addresses local need. For example, they have set up a kids’ café, where kids and parents learn to cook together, and an older persons’ lunch club to tackle social isolation.

Through consultation, they’ve also learnt that the community see the food and hospitality industry as a positive route into the labour market. With a £90,200 grant from Power to Change’s Community Business Fund, Community Catering will train local people up as baristas, fresh juice and smoothie makers, bakers and food growers. They will also develop their café as a bistro style coffee bar to compete with other coffee chains, and create a range of freshly baked products, fresh juices, smoothies and soups to give people to fresh, affordable and healthy food. Produce will be sourced where possible from the community centre’s allotment and food waste. On top of this, the grant will help them buy a van and develop marketing materials for a mobile fresh food service that will provide affordable, fresh and healthy food to local council estates – a service that the community specifically requested to cater for isolated members of the community, people in sheltered accommodation and local businesses.

The income they generate from these additional funding streams will be reinvested into mentoring and coaching of Walker Women, a leadership course for local women; cookery lessons for local people; community meals and food events during the holidays.

Community Catering Initiative have a two tier governance structure with a service user forum made up of two volunteers, two service users and two local organisations, who meet with the Directors on a quarterly basis to ensure continuous dialogue with their 2,000 members. Most of their directors reside in the Walker ward as do all of their employees and volunteers, who act as local role models.

They consult with their local community through their café, counter suggestion box, monthly focus groups, questionnaires, self-evaluation methods and case study material. The community shape everything they do – from menu to cookery classes, to new product and activity design.