Little Lounge started out as a baby and toddler group, founded by Katie Hadley - a mum of three who had moved to Cilfynydd and who wanted to make new friends in the area. Initially it was just a small social ‘meet up’ group, but it soon grew and moved to being a regular group and a charity, which is now based in Cilfynydd Community Centre.
Our Play Café sessions have become very popular with local families, serving good quality food, and providing a fun play space for little ones to explore, sing, enjoy story time and get involved in sensory sessions, while their parents and carers relax and catch up over coffee, tea, and snacks.
The Little Lounge Community Pantry emerged during the Covid pandemic when the UK went into lockdown. We had been receiving regular boxes from Tesco via the Fare Share scheme, which we would use to feed kids during the play sessions. Because we could no longer meet face to face, the food was going to go to waste, so we decided to keep the food and run a shop, making up bags of donated food to distribute to the local community.
We use the basement of the community centre and open from 10am-11.30am on Fridays, with help from a dedicated team of sixteen local volunteers. Residents from Cilfynydd and the surrounding area get to choose a bag full of food including bakery products, fruit, and vegetables for a £2 donation. All the money we make goes back into community projects. Cynon Valley Organic Adventures, a local social enterprise, has a huge 5-acre allotment in the area, and they also donate a lot of fresh vegetables to include in the boxes. Local people have also been bringing us their home-grown fruit and vegetables from their gardens and allotments.
We see the Little Lounge Community Pantry very much as an eco-project, designed to reduce food waste and to redistribute surplus food into the community. It’s open to all and is not a food bank, but it hopefully helps alleviate food poverty to a degree. Most people find out about the scheme via word of mouth or our Facebook group, where some of our regular customers share their recipe ideas to inspire others to use the pantry.
We are thrilled that our play sessions have now re-started, and we now also hold outdoor adventure toddler sessions which is a great way for people to have somewhere to connect with others safely outdoors. We’ve built mud kitchens and a sensory garden where we grow vegetables and hold nature themed crafts sessions. So many children have been born during lockdown, so it’s a lovely way for them to get introduced to nature while making new friends.
We couldn’t run the Little Lounge Community Pantry without the generous donations we receive from Tesco via FareShare. It’s a great scheme for redistributing surplus food to people who need it. Charities and community groups can register for the scheme, and they are then matched to a participating store in their local area, allowing them to collect surplus food on a regular basis.
We’ve also found Interlink Rhondda Cynon Taf to be very helpful in advertising funding pots for small local community initiatives like ours. They helped us get set up and have offered us great business advice.
In 2021, we distributed 86kg of food otherwise destined for landfill. A kg of food waste is 2.5 kilos of carbon dioxide. So, we estimate that we have saved 10 tonnes of CO2 over the year.