Good eats: the best social cafes in the UK

Photo by Sacha Fernandez 
Social enterprise is emerging as the new business model of choice for many cafés and eateries popping up in the UK. These enterprises centre around helping others, using their profits to tackle social or environmental issues, like helping homeless people into work or supporting people with disabilities in gaining catering qualifications.  

I tracked down three of the best socially conscientious cafes in the UK for an in-depth look at their amazing work, and tasty treats!

The Brigade
Set up in a large 19th century fire station in the London Bridge area, The Brigade was established to help the homeless, vulnerable or disadvantaged, to develop skills and find work. A collaboration between a number of companies and organisations, the profits go towards supporting and training provided by Beyond Food Foundation’s Freshlife training scheme.

The Hive café
Established in 2011, The Hive café on Hill Holt Wood, Lincolnshire offers an alternative education for children excluded from school, training for the unemployed, courses on countryside management, country and rural crafts and leadership skills. The café is based on 14 hectares of sustainably managed ancient woodland on the Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire border. Apart from the excellent tea, it is a wonderful and enriching place to visit with facilities ranging from permaculture gardens, environmental sculpture, woodland walks and computer facilities and workshops. 

Unity Kitchen
Established in 2009 Unity Kitchen has a strong social and environmental purpose. The organisation operates eight cafes across London.  The organisation spends every pound of profit to directly support people with disabilities to get opportunities, build a career and plan for a great future by providing apprenticeships in its cafes. People with learning disabilities are the furthest away from the employment market with only 7% in employment - a statistic that shows the importance of the work Unity Kitchen does.

Around the UK we can now see a budding collection of places to eat and drink where profits benefit those most in need. From helping ex-addicts, prisoners, troubled young people, those with learning difficulties or anyone who is struggling to find work; these places give you good food and put the money you pay to good use. Happy eating!

By Martin Kitara, Poached Creative volunteer writer 

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