A CAFÉ with a heart has beaten competition from across the country to win a prestigious award.

The team at Stockton’s Labyrinth Holistic Café, impressed judges with their social conscience to came out top at the annual Free From Eating Out awards.

Situated on Dovecot Street, the café and bookshop caters for those with specialist dietary requirements but also operates a food bank, pay it forward scheme and clothing bank.

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They also give women in need handbags filled with sanitary products and work with agencies across the community to support vulnerable people.

The not-for-profit café, which receives no external funding, is also part of the FareShare scheme, which aims to reduce food waste from supermarkets by using it to feed those in need.

Judges praised staff for establishing an inclusive environment, saying “everything they do is for everyone, no-one is excluded.”

They also complimented their food, adding: “All of the staff are knowledgeable, totally allergy aware, well-trained, friendly and passionate.

“Not only is Labyrinth a not-for-profit business, it is 100 per cent for the community, they cater for everyone.”

The business is operated by Deb Bailey-Knibbs and her partner Paul, with support from Lorraine and John Johnson.

Ms Bailey-Knibbs said: “It’s amazing to think that we’ve been voted the best in the entire country, I couldn’t believe it.

“When we started, we were only going to be a specialist dietary café and wanted to make everyone feel included but playing a part in the community is very important to us.

“The rest of it developed from our wall, where people could buy a cup of tea or sandwich for someone in need.

“This is just something we do – I like to think I’m quite a nice person and we’re just lucky that we can do something like this.”

The Free From awards were established to celebrate innovation and imagination within the food industry in creating foods free of allergens.

The café is always in need of donations for their food and clothing banks, as well as their handbag appeal.

For more information, visit the Labyrinth Holistic Community Café page on Facebook or call into the café.