New Community Café at Norfolk Pub Helps Connect Locals, Tackle Food Poverty and Rural Isolation

The Blue Bell in Stoke Ferry, Norfolk, has opened a community café to provide a place for locals to meet up, socialise and help combat loneliness.

The pub, which reopened in June, after being purchased by over 400 members of the community in June 2021, has opened the café to provide an accessible, safe space for people living in the local area to get together to tackle loneliness and isolation.

A key focus of the pub is to offer support to address the inequalities of physical and mental health and poor access to healthy foods in the area.

The community café, which has been named the Pub Café, was opened with the expert help and a Community Services Fund grant from Pub is The Hub, the not-for-profit organisation that helps pubs to diversify and provide essential local services.

With new café manager Chloe Gibson at the helm of the café it will offer a range of homemade cakes and teas and coffees.

The café hosts a range of organisations with the local walking group, cyclists and Cribbage Club using the facilities. With many elderly people living in the area Elderly Persons Lunches are held once a week offering wholesome meals at discounted prices. There are plans for this to be extended to twice a week.

The pub has also launched a new fruit and veg market in its garden where people can donate and buy locally grown surplus produce.

Jim McNeill, spokesman of the Stoke Ferry Community Enterprise, said:

“The organising committee and volunteers have worked tirelessly to buy, renovate and, reopen the Blue Bell as a community pub and café at the heart of its local community.”

He added: “We work closely with the parish council on initiatives around helping to reduce poverty and are actively collaborating with other community groups to maximise our social impact.”

Pub is The Hub regional advisor Terry Stork said:
“The pub’s committee should feel proud of the vision and hard work they have put into getting the doors of the Blue Bell reopened. The services the pub is offering is of great benefit to locals.

“This community café will be really key in helping local people to connect, particularly after the pandemic lockdowns which caused many elderly people in the area to experience feelings of loneliness.”