A community hub for the young, old and those in need reopened its doors this week in Harehills.
The Courtyard Cafe at Harehills Lane Baptist Church started up again on Monday to build community cohesion and to help the disadvantaged.
The term-time weekly cafe is part of the Leeds Food Aid Network, which tackles food poverty in the city. It is also helped by Tesco’s Community Food Connection scheme and FareShare, which sees unsold surplus food go to those who need it most.
Elaine Levene, cafe administrator at Harehills Lane Baptist Church, said: “We want to reach out to the neighbourhood, to help people in need and to befriend people.
“There are quite a lot of lonely people who come in. We have people there who can chat to them. We have a room in the hall called ‘Space’ where we have a someone who is willing to chat to people who need it and to pray with them.”
She urged people who may be at a low ebb to pop along to the friendly cafe on Mondays. Elaine added: “Just turn up at 11am and have a meal or a cup of coffee. Somebody will probably come and chat to you or to someone on your table, which seat six people. There is always somebody to chat to.
“We have waitress service, so the servers will have a chat to you too. We know everybody by their first names.
“The people we help say ‘Courtyard Cafe is Monday church’. It’s very welcoming, they feel it’s a lovely atmosphere and they love the food.”
The cafe caters for around 60 to 80 customers each Monday. They enjoy a series of set meals and specials with meat and vegetarian options. The kitchen has a five-star food hygiene rating, and two of its cooks, Maureen Jones and Jeremy Toner, have been on the Tesco Community Cookery School with Jamie Oliver.
They learnt how to make a basic sauce and how to adapt it for different meals.
The cafe is run by around 20 volunteers and the church’s congregation helps provide the bulk of them.
Elaine said: “About two thirds of our volunteers are members of the church. Other volunteers are ex customers. Quite a few volunteers are asylum seekers. They come and help us and get a free meal at the end of it, so they benefit as well.”
Nothing goes to waste. Any unused items are put out for the Harehills Lane Baptist Church congregation on Sundays.
Elaine added: “We let needy people in our congregation take it. We have got quite a lot of asylum seekers in our congregation or people who have been given leave to stay but they haven’t any income. So they will take things away, extra surplus food.”
The cafe administrator said the food donations from Tesco really went a long way in the community. She said the cafe was delighted to be a part of its Community Food Connection scheme, run in partnership with FairShare.
Nicola MacKay, community food programmes Manager for Tesco, said: “We’re proud to work with Harehills Lane Baptist Church, whose dedication to the community is amazing.
“They have already helped so many people, and we are so pleased to be working with them to assist even more people in need.”
Since launching in February 2016, Tesco’s Community Food Connection has donated surplus food to more than 7,000 charities and community groups. The scheme pairs them up with Tesco stores who alert them to available unsold surplus food via a mobile app.
The Courtyard Cafe is based at Harehills Lane Baptists Church.
It opens from 11am to 1.30pm on Mondays in term time.
The Courtyard Cafe started back in October 1998 with five small tables in what was then a new glass-roofed courtyard area of the church.
At the start it served coffee and cakes, jacket potatoes and toasties.
But due to popular demand it had to expand into the main church hall.
Elaine Levene, cafe administrator at Harehills Lane Baptist Church, said: “After a few years we had so many people coming that we had to move into the church hall and set up a much larger area.
“The food expanded from there into hot meals, soups, puddings.”
She said they served around 60 to 80 people each Monday.
The cafe, which reopened on Monday after its summer break, has a broad range of customers, spanning from parents with young children to retired people.
Elaine added: “On Monday we gave out quite a number of free meals to people on low incomes. We are part of the Leeds Food Aid Network so we are advertised in places like the Citizens Advice Bureau and foodbanks.
The Courtyard Cafe is staffed by a band of loyal volunteers, many of whom are part of the church’s congregation.
Anyone wanting to volunteer is invited to turn up on Mondays in term time from 11am for a chat.