When Josephine Hercberg was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 30, it led to a lot of soul searching.

Josephine Hercberg - Food Works

After university, Josephine spent the first ten years of her career working up the ladder of the online travel industry. “My heart was never truly in it,” she said.

It was a chance reading of an article about the Real Junk Food Project in Leeds that planted the seed. “I had a look to see if there was something similar in Sheffield.”- Josephine

Jo then got in touch with them and they shared learning, leading to Jo setting up a pay-as-you-feel café in 2015.

Jo approached the Key Fund in 2016 after her house had been over-run as a food storage facility.

Today, they have two community cafes, a catering service, an educational programme working with 19 primary schools in Sheffield, alongside a warehouse and pay-as-you-feel.

The cafés serve 60 people a day, each ran by a chef working alongside volunteers. Both chefs, now employees, began as volunteers.200 volunteers are signed up, with 50-100 new volunteer requests a week.

The mission ultimately is environmental: to stop food waste. But the social impact is evident, supplying foodbanks with fresh veg, fruit and bread, running Holiday Hunger schemes with the council to provide free healthy meals in activity centres to children over the summer break, and empowering volunteers into work.

Emily left school at 13 and ended up in bad relationships after a difficult childhood. “I suffer PTSD, I’ve been on medication all my life,”

Emily - Food Works Sheffield

“Emily in one of our cafes had never worked, she left school at 15, had six children and didn’t have any confidence in herself on being able to work. She began as a volunteer in our warehouse and started taking food home and cooking with it and bringing it back. We encouraged her to volunteer in the café.” – Jo.

From there she’s come on leaps and bounds and has been working for about a year running one of the cafes.

Single with six children, she suffered from depression and anxiety. Emily first went to the pay-as-you-feel market after her benefits were stopped.

“I started as a volunteer because I got a free shop in return. I was always cooking, I had to with my kids, and I like to cook all sorts, so they asked me to volunteer in the café, and I’ve been a paid manager there for two years now.

I couldn’t see myself running a café, but they just supported me and I love it. I never had a job until this one, they just encouraged me and said you are good enough.” – Emily

Emily turned the café’s fortunes around. She puts the secret of its success down to being ‘like a family.’ – Emily

Everyone is welcome. “I get on with anyone, and everyone deserves a chance.”  She knows all her customers by name.

Food Works Emily 3