Café

The Hornbeam Café is currently run by The Gleaners.

The Gleaners is the pay-what-you-feel community cafe based at The Hornbeam Centre. We use surplus produce — quality ingredients that would otherwise go to waste — to make tasty, plant-based meals.

For now, we continue to operate as a take-away service only, open every day from 12-3pm for lunch, teas, and coffees. Everyone is welcome.

We also run a surplus grocery stall, which from November 2020 will operate from the cafe on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. (The grocery stall can slow down the queue somewhat, so if you’re tight for time to pick up some lunch, best to come on the other days.)

We began in June 2019 as a small team running two days a week, and since February 2020 have been running the cafe daily as a small, independent workers’ cooperative supported by an amazing and ever-growing team of local volunteers.

Our vision is to build an inclusive, mixed community eating space which is socially, economically, and ecologically sustainable.

We are not-for-profit, but we don’t rely on grants. We exist within the Hornbeam Centre, and collaborate with the community centre on various projects, but are financially independent.

We believe that a community cafe can and should be a stable and positive part of a vibrant local economy, creating meaningful livelihoods for people while increasing access to tasty, healthy food within the community.

Our pay-what-you-feel model is integral to the success of this, dependent on solidarity from those who can pay a little more to buffer those who are limited in what is affordable to them. Think of it as a collaboration, as mutual aid, where everyone contributing what they can adds up to create a community cafe open to all.

If you like the sound of what we do and would like to be a part of supporting it to exist, please come and eat with us soon and pay what you feel!

Why do we run as pay-what-you-feel?

We are situated in a borough in which rising house and land prices are driving up the cost of living, excluding many in our community from participating in both local cultural spaces and local economy.

In contrast, unhealthy and heavily processed food is often the cheapest and most readily available, reflecting a food system that is unequal, damaging, and unsustainable. We work to play a small part towards building a healthy, sustainable food system in which people and planet are respected from seed to plate, and communities have more power over the food available to them.

We believe that one way to redress the balance is to encourage a local solidarity economy: one which acknowledges the diversity of economic circumstances that clearly exist within our borough, and questions the expectation that everyone should pay the same for their lunch. In practice, this means that those who can afford to pay more recognise their privilege and use their resources to contribute directly to building a more resilient, inclusive community.

We try to achieve this by running on a pay-what-you-feel basis. This means that we have no prices. Instead, you choose how much you pay based on the particulars of your circumstances and experiences. If everyone enters into this relationship with trust, and pays what is affordable to them — and we don’t ask questions — then we can operate in a way that is both accessible and financially sustainable.

So our food is for everyone and anyone. We are a cafe built on solidarity, not charity, where community members’ participation is not defined by economic circumstance. We believe that the joy of celebrating food in a social context should be a basic part of civic life, and one which can break down many barriers in our communities.

Why do we run on surplus produce?

Running the cafe on surplus helps to reduce the environmental impact of our community, stopping good food going to waste and getting it where it should be: on people’s plates.

Wasted food and overproduction are major producers of the greenhouse gases that drive climate change, and reflect a damaged, wasteful food system that prioritises profit over nourishing people, respecting land-workers, and living in harmony with the rest of nature. We want to be part of the solution, and believe in a slower pace of life that chooses low-cost, low-impact living and a deeper connection with the rest of nature.

In this way, we recognise the links between overproduction, waste, and lack of access to affordable, healthy food in our community. By getting hold of some of this surplus to cook with, we can run on a relatively low budget and create an inclusive community eating space with pay-what-you-feel pricing.

We hope that one day there will be very little surplus to work with (of course a healthy food system can still produce some surplus), but while there is so much available it is important to us to work with it. And we hope that running in this way not only reduces our impact and redirects quality food from landfill each day, but also raises awareness of the issues, helping to drive positive change and convincing others to reduce waste, be more resourceful, and play small, local roles in transforming our food system for the better.

In the kitchen, this includes making good use of what’s in stock so as not to let produce spoil, using every edible part of an ingredient, and composting any food waste at the end of this process to help to return nutrients to our soils. And saving money in these areas by reducing waste means that we can use the resources we do have to pay ourselves fairly, and support ethical and sustainable business where we do need to purchase any goods. This concept can extend to the home too.

The idea for the community cafe grew in part from our involvement in the Hornbeam’s Food Rescue Project, with which we still collaborate. It is through this route that we continue to get much of our surplus ingredients. Although we receive almost all of our ingredients for free, we also buy some organic produce from our friends at Organiclea, sold as surplus after returning from market. A few other essential ingredients are bought new from workers’ cooperative wholesalers, such as Infinity Foods, as well as a handful of local stores.

Why are we organised as a workers’ cooperative?

A workers’ cooperative is a business owned and controlled by its workers. It is a non-hierarchical workplace in which power and decision-making is shared through a democratic process founded on participation, inclusion, and respect.

We believe that working in this way is healthier for both workers and the communities they serve, and that work founded in cooperative principles will be key to addressing many of the societal problems we face around social, racial, and environmental justice, all of which require building a more sustainable and compassionate society — something which our dominating forms of economic organising fail to achieve.

We also believe that a cooperative culture in the workplace can have impacts in embedding and supporting these values more broadly in the everyday in our communities.

We really enjoy working in this way — it’s stimulating, empowering, supportive, challenging, and fun!


Visit our Crowdfunder page to help support our work!


  We rent our kitchen space out as a training facility for people wanting to gain skills running a cafe. The next residency available will be in Sept 2020. Contact Anne@hornbeam.org.uk if you are interested. 

Please contact  info@hornbeam.org.uk if you’d like to be one of our future Test Kitchens.