Cathays vegan café battles rising food poverty with a community fridge and non-profit model

With one in five people living in poverty in Wales, vegan café Wild Thing commits to tackling Cardiff’s rising food insecurity this winter

Wild Thing staff outside the community fridge
Front of House Klaudia Rogut, 22, and Chef Dominika Borkowska, 26, stock the community fridge (Credit: Emma Blackmore)

A plant-based café in Cathays is offering a pay-as-you-can scheme and community fridge to offset rising food poverty this winter.

Wild Thing is the first café in Cardiff to run a community fridge in an effort to make food more accessible.

Owner of Wild Thing, Lauren Saunders, started her business at the age of 25 with three goals in mind: provide high-quality and delicious plant-based food, reduce food waste and battle food poverty.

“I’m passionate about food and social justice,” the now 29-year-old said. “After university I worked as an outreach worker for The Big Issue. After a few years there I decided to pursue my passion for food, but I wanted to continue tackling poverty which is how Wild Thing came to be.”

Wild Thing’s pay-what-you-can model removes the financial barrier to eating well and healthily.

The café uses sustainable and locally produced food suppliers, with its menu changing regularly to use the best in season.

The community fridge sits in the courtyard shared by Cathays Community Centre and Wild Thing.

The fridge is resupplied daily by donations from volunteers and members of the public and each week Wild Thing funds a large delivery from FareShare, a UK charity that redistributes surplus food.

Vegetables, dairy products, sandwiches and cooked meat and fish are often donated.

Staff stock community fridge that is free to everyone
The fridge is restocked daily by Wild Thing and donations from volunteers and members of the public. (Credit: Emma Blackmore)

It comes at a time when a total of 23% of the population in Wales, one in five people, currently live in poverty and experience food instability.

“Over winter there is always a greater demand for services like the community fridge,” Lauren observed.

It’s hard to determine how many people use the fridge, but it can be assumed that factors like rising fuel prices and reduction in universal credit can contribute to food insecurity, she said. 

Anyone has access to drop off or collect food.

The methods Wild Thing uses to battle food poverty:
  • Pay-as-you-can model
  • Community fridge
  • Pay for someone else to enjoy scheme
  • Nutrition skills course and hospitality training
  • In the future, Wild Thing will launch a community food shop to make grocery shopping more affordable, in addition to creating more volunteer placements and offering a living wage permanent job.
Owner of the Wild Thing poses in her cafe
Lauren is also one of the founding members of Cardiff Food Justice Collective, a group passionate about working for food justice.
(Credit: Lauren Saunders)