Foodhall is a cafe on a mission. Since it opened in 2015 it’s been bringing people together through food, reducing waste and encouraging community engagement. The Eyre Street cafe (opposite Plug) is run by volunteers, operating on a pay-as-you-feel basis. Anyone can get involved, whether it’s cooking, serving or making.
The idea for Foodhall came when three architecture and town planning graduates – Louis Pohl, Jamie Wilde and Sam Atkinson – started looking at ways to instigate cross-societal engagement through food between often marginalised groups such as students, homeless people, mental health groups, isolated people, people with addiction problems and people who need to access food.
“We started looking at the abundance of food, materials and construction waste we have around us and thought about how we could break the cycle and utilise all this stuff”, says Jamie.
In a building that might have otherwise been disused, on furniture that has been reclaimed or upcycled, eating food that would have been thrown away – Foodhall makes eating and socialising even more rewarding. And so far the people of Sheffield have embraced the cafe wholeheartedly. “The reaction to Foodhall has been overwhelmingly positive. My favourite way of judging public reaction is to see who comes in. We have regulars who come in the cafe every day and have become part of the furniture.” One such regular is Peter, who recently celebrated his 72nd birthday at Foodhall by playing his favourite tunes on the house piano.
But it’s not just the local community that’s embracing Foodhall. It's won two prizes at the Sheffield Design Awards – the Small Project and the People’s Choice award – which recognised the way the team is using design to address social and environmental issues.
The cafe opens Thursday to Saturday and all food that is served has been cooked using surplus ingredients donated by retailers, saving it from being sent to landfill. The menu changes day to day, the meals are accessible to all and the quality is high. They’ve even had Michelin-star, Savoy-trained chefs and some of the chefs from Sheffield’s top restaurants cooking there – keep an eye on Facebook for upcoming dates in their Plates series of special themed nights.
Aside from food, at night the space turns into one of the best DIY venues in the city with bands and DJs performing regularly, helping support the daytime cafe operation. It also hosts pay-what-you-can guitar lessons on Thursdays, as well occasional bike maintenance classes, TV Dinners film nights, a pottery club, and karaoke sessions. It even opens for food, fun and games on Christmas Day. You can join them in bringing even more joy to people in Sheffield by donating to Foodhall's Christmas Wish List or by heading down on Christmas Day.
The future looks bright for the Foodhall team, who are currently helping the University of Sheffield set up a similar cafe on its campus. “We will continue to work with and support other charitable and social organisations. We have quite a few good gigs booked in too.”
As Jamie says: “Foodhall is for the community by the community”. Long may it continue.
Foodhall features in a short film we made with Sheffield Hallam Uni, alongside a bunch of the city's other foodie favourites – watch below.
- Words by
- Tom Roper
- Images by
- Nigel Barker