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This week we are super excited to give you an insight into one of our wonderful Wholesale partners, The Umbrella Café. The Umbrella Café has been at the heart of so many Whitstable community projects, with a focus on inclusivity and support for those that need it the most. Here Jo, their CEO gives us an insight into what The Umbrella Café is currently up to and what they have got coming up!
Hello Jo! Thank you so much for chatting to us today. Can you tell us a bit about you and the Umbrella Café?
We are first and foremost a community café; we opened in 2015 aiming to be a fully accessible hub that welcomed all alongside serving great coffee and cakes. We are always looking at innovative ways we can access and engage our community better.
Legally we incorporated as a community interest company in 2018, which means we are run by and for the community and any profits go back into our projects. We run a community café, host supported placements and volunteering, and run a social pantry shop.
You are based just over the road from us in Whitstable! What do you love the most about Whitstable?
Definitely the community spirit in our small but vibrant town. We have so many locally run shops, cafes and restaurants and everyone really pulls together to support each other. This was emphasised in 2020 when many neighbourhood businesses, struggling with the lockdowns themselves, came forward to ask how they could help with community food, social and health related projects.
Jo, what is your favourite drink on the menu at the minute?
I’ve recently discovered how much I love our spiced chai lattes (made with Garage chai). On a chilly afternoon it’s like a hug in a mug!
Can you tell us a bit about The Social Pantry?
The Social Pantry is our newest project, running from Whitstable Umbrella Centre since September 2020. It is a shop, open two days per week, targeted towards those struggling to access good food, either due to financial constraints or social isolation. We support an average of 27 households per week and indirectly support as many as 120 people over the two days of opening. Most of our stock is good quality surplus; we partner with a number of supermarkets and receive ad hoc donations from local businesses and individuals. We are always happy to take in an apple or tomato glut from a local allotment for instance. 70% of our members say that the pantry has helped them to socialise locally again since lockdowns have ended and 95% report it has helped them significantly with their financial situation. It is not a crisis service; we have an amazing Food Bank in our district who are able to provide an average of five 3 day food parcels per year to households in emergency situations. This is a sustainable and empowering food hub, where members make their own choices and leave with a week’s worth of shopping, social interaction and recipe support.
Do you have any exciting projects or causes coming up?
Yes! We love collaborating and have a new series of Sunday pop ups upcoming over the Winter and beyond. Over the next couple of months you can book in for a Mexican taster menu with Side & Main, a family mega roast with Minno Kitchen and a vegan festive lunch with Potato Tomato. Sign up to our monthly newsletter or follow our social media for more information.
Why do you work with Garage Coffee?!
It’s a no brainer for us – you provide us with a delicious and accessible coffee that we can sell on at an affordable market rate. You roast and employ locally, are uber reliable and offer the BEST coffee training we’ve come across. I could go on.... ;-)
How can we support The Umbrella Café?
There are lots of ways for our customers to support us but these are the three easiest –
1. Sign up to our monthly newsletter at theumbrellacafe.co.uk
2. Donate to our pay it forward in store, just a little goes a long way and helps someone else access a healthy meal in a welcoming space.
3. Share our story with friends on social media, we are a little tucked away and always appreciate the wonderful Whitstable word of mouth!
You can find The Umbrella Café within The Umbrella Centre on 10 Oxford Street. Visit their warm, welcoming café and in the summer months sit in their glorious garden and enjoy nutritious, home cooked meals and tempting cakes, as well as some super coffee!