The Sunlite Café, a community café, is open from 9 am to 2.30 pm Monday to Friday, offering healthy snacks and lunches and arranging buffets to order. The idea is to prepare wholesome food at reasonable prices, while at the same time offering volunteers the opportunity to experience best practice in relation to food preparation, health and hygiene. This, together with formal hygiene and food preparation training, prepares the volunteers to then move into paid employment, either in commercial catering, hospitality, customer service, or retail sales.
There are currently two paid employees and a group of ten volunteers who run the café, all of whom have mental health challenges. The café caters for groups and individuals who require the support of a personal carer, other users of the Cowane Centre, and the general public.
The café also acts as a daily reception point for individuals from Streets Ahead and their carers, who meet there to plan their day in an atmosphere and environment where they are able to feel relaxed.
The café has been operating in its present form for four years and works in partnership with Stirling Council, Adult Learning and Youth Services, and Forth Valley Community Health, among others.
The café successfully achieved the healthyliving award in 2008.
The café believes that the cafe environment, working to high standards of hygiene and food preparation, assists people in coping with their challenges and gives them a self-confidence that they would not otherwise necessarily experience.
The atmosphere at the café is happy and staff are enthusiastic. Potential new volunteers are always happy to commit to a longer time at the café after their ‘taster’ session, which introduces them to everyone and gives them an idea of what working at the café will be like.
Activities have changed from being merely a café serving food to also include a select delicatessen, and catering for external events, such as buffets for groups holding training sessions and also an increase in the level of training offered to volunteers.
In May 2008 the café set up a small retail unit to sell food which has been either sourced locally, sustainably produced or Fair Trade in origin. It also sells fruit and vegetables sourced from a local supplier who delivers fresh produce on a weekly basis. These are available in boxes, to order, but are also priced and sold individually, making it easier to budget. This has proved especially useful to people on lower incomes and it also means people do not have to buy large amounts, thereby reducing potential food waste.
The staff and volunteers have also started to run workshops on cooking basic wholesome food on a budget, shopping for basic store cupboard ingredients, and smoothie-making – all designed to get over the idea that cooking can be fun. These are offered on a regular basis to other groups in the community and have been funded by CFHS.
The activities have also changed to ensure a higher standard of training for volunteers. All volunteers now have the opportunity to undertake the REHIS Elementary Food and Health course, REHIS basic Food Hygiene course, Emergency First Aid, and Moving and Handling. Working in the cafe and the delicatessen also ensures that volunteers have a wide experience of dealing with customers, eg. preparing and serving food of a high standard, retail experience, cleanliness in the kitchen and cafe, all of which means that they are well prepared for work in a working environment.
For the future it aims to increase the size of its volunteer group, especially, but not exclusively, from the younger age group and ensure that, as far as is able, they are properly prepared to move on to gainful employment, by giving them experience in writing a CV, job interview techniques and the specific skill training already mentioned.
Because of the physical constraints of the café, it is hoped to increase the buffet catering, but at the same time maintaining the high standard of training and food offered for sale in the café.
Sunlite Café’s experience has been that little changes can make a big difference in all sorts of ways, but that the effects of that change will probably be slower than anticipated.
If you require further information, please contact Fiona Hamilton at the address below:
Let’s Make It Better
The Cowane Centre
Stirling FK8 1JS
email: [email protected]