They say that you can’t keep a good man down and this has never been truer of Trevor Blaney. Having won last year’s Observer Good Food Monthly award for Local Food Hero for his Pop up Soup Kitchen, far from resting on his laurels he’s now opening a café using food that would normally be discarded by local supermarkets and is looking forward to feeding people ‘rubbish’.
When I meet Trevor he is in the midst of sorting out what looks like the biggest mess ever in a former charity shop. Boxes are piled ceiling high, rooms are filled with bagged clothing and general detritus and his girlfriend Mandy is trying to get to where the carpet might be. But is he daunted? Of course not! “We’re doing this project to help the less fortunate”, Trevor explains. “There are so many less fortunate people here on the Isle of Wight and although I’m not political, the austerity around us is quite apparent and I just want to help the underdog. People from time to time need a leg up whether their circumstances are through illness, some sort of addiction or debt and it always comes back to the same thing, the best way to help them is to feed them – that means that they’re saving money.”
Trevor has been around homelessness for the past two years and he feels that there’s no real cure to it. “We can prevent it,” he says, “By helping these people through our waste food contract and with, the awards we have won that have attracted these contracts, we are seeing more and more food coming through the door.” Last year, in one week, through various organisations donating waste food, The Pop up Soup Kitchen fed 225 people. “We invented the ‘credit crunch lunch’ at one church, took food to the organisation to contribute to the lunch and part of what we’re hoping to achieve with this café is to not only feed people but to also offer debt counselling to help, advise and prevent to stave off homelessness.”
The charity, through their waste food contracts gets fresh as well as other produce and Trevor found that with the heatwave this year, that much of this was going to waste as it was not only going bad before it could all be used, but also because it seems that younger people don’t cook and prefer faster foods. “The noodles and tinned foods go really quickly but they’re not looking to cook from scratch so another thing that we’ll have at the café is ‘soup school’ and I’m hoping that by doing this we can educate people to use a chicken carcass or whatever they have and make a good soup out of it, and if they can’t then we’ll show them how. There’s so much you can do with a chicken, you can get four meals out of one if you’re inventive but young people I think believe that chicken only comes in a fast food bucket so this is where the education comes in.” But apart from education, Trevor has another way to get home cooked food to those who need it. “These peppers, carrots, potatoes and fresh foods that we get will come in through the back door straight into the kitchen where Chef Andrew will process this food and make small individual or family sized meals and I hope that, at some point, we’ll be able to put glass fronted freezers in the front of the shop so that people can come in and buy a very cheap meal – because then Waste Not Wat Not is also not wasting anything. We’ll effectively cook for them and people will pay a token amount. If we give everyone in addiction everything they need, then we are aiding that addiction. By charging a token amount, we are feeding people responsibly.”
Trevor’s vision for the café and the soup school is that ‘the great and the good’ as he calls them will come and effectively eat rubbish which Chef Andrew (himself in recovery) will turn into a three course meal so that it’s also an education for the café customers. It won’t be expensive but the money raised will go towards this and Trevor’s other project to help the homeless and the ‘less fortunate’. Mark Evans at Newport Congregational Church has facilitated the building and is a staunch supporter of both the Pop up Soup Kitchen and this new venture. From letting Trevor park his food trailer on the church’s forecourt to charging him a peppercorn rent for the new shop and café, the charity would have found things impossible or at the very least extremely difficult without Mark’s input. They are a formidable twosome.
The café is planned to be open in October and donations can be made via the Pop up Soup Kitchen website and we should watch this space for what Trevor does next!
Waste Not, Want Not, 67a High Street, Newport, Isle of Wight
Words: Amber Beard
Pictures: Christine Taylor