Food for Thought, a project which redistributes food destined for the skip, urgently needs a new home, writes Simone Scott.

THE inaugural annual general meeting of Darlington Food for Thought took place on Monday, with more than 20 people attending the event to celebrate the group’s achievements, elect officers and make plans for the year ahead. The group now faces the challenge of needing a new home in order to meet the growing demands for its services; with space for storage of catering equipment, sorting and storing food supplies and an area suitable for staging pop-up cafes.

Food for Thought was formed in late 2017 by Louise Graham and a small group of Darlington residents to tackle the growing problems of food waste and community members going hungry.

With a vision to “love food, tackle waste, fight inequality and build a better world for all”, the group has grown from humble beginnings to a team of more than 40 active volunteers supporting tasks that include collecting and sorting food donations, preparing, cooking and serving meals, and delivering food packages to local residents.

During the group’s short lifetime it has staged 13 pop-up style café events, a festival food stall, as well as providing a regular delivery service whereby unused supplies are redistributed within the community – so far feeding and supporting over 1,400 people. The café concept consists of a delicious three-course menu – favourites to date include Sri Lankan vegetable curry, beef pie, and fruit crumble – as well as drinks, home-baked treats and access to clothing and essential supplies.

All meals are made from scratch using healthy ingredients supplied by a growing list of retailers, cafes, schools and other generous organisations, with cafés ‘popping up’ at venues including Northlands Church, Red Hall Community Centre, and Darlington Community Fire Station.

Food for Thought follows a “pay as you feel” approach, whereby diners choose to donate as much or as little as they’re able. For some, payment may mean popping some loose change in the pot, for others volunteering, bringing an item, spreading the word, or lending a helping hand in the community.

In addition to the generosity of more than 40 suppliers, the group has also formed formal partnerships with the Clervaux Trust, the Co-op, and Marks & Spencer. Plans for the coming year include partnerships with Keepmoat Homes and Darlington Borough Council, as well as initiatives to increase awareness of food waste. The group will expand its offering to charitable event catering, with the first event scheduled for Spring 2019.

Chair Louise Graham says: “We have come so far in a short space of time, which suggests that we are filling a gap and meeting need.

“We are continuing to grow as an organisation, with new volunteers stepping forward every week. To me, this is an indication that our community is something people want to be a part of, and we have huge potential to grow further.

“However, we have just had news that our current base will not be available after January. We desperately need to put our roots down in order to become an established force for good in the town.

“We are looking for a premises in the centre of town, so people can reach us easily, and where we can run a cafe as well as provide clothing, essentials and support to whoever needs them. We have big plans and would make use of all of the space offered. I do hope someone will come forward with an offer or suggestion – it would be a crying shame if our good work was prevented from continuing because we don’t have a base from which to operate.”

The group aims to reach and meet the needs of everyone who might need it. Details of events and services can be found on Facebook (FFTDarlington), or the Healthwatch Darlington website (

Anyone with premises that might be suitable for the group, or who would like to volunteer can call Louise on 07815 947215, or email

Forthcoming events include: Saturday, September 29, 4.30pm-6pm, pop-up café Darlington Community Fire Station; Friday, October 5, 8pm onwards, night of music and solidarity at The Quakerhouse pub; Saturday, October 6, 8pm onwards, night of music and solidarity at The Quakerhouse pub; Saturday, October 13, 10am-4pm, Darlington World Food Festival, Darlington Market; Sunday, October 28, 4.30pm-6pm, pop-up café Darlington Community Fire Station.