The café in Gateshead, near Newcastle, opened this month in response to fears that local elderly people are being forced by poverty to choose to either “heat or eat”.
The Cosy Crow Community Café, run by the Gateshead Older People’s Assembly, offers food that would have been thrown away to people who are not always able to afford a meal.
One visitor said she loves paying what she can 'without worrying'
There are no prices on the menu - the café operates on a 'pay-what-you-can' basis, and will be serving surplus food from supermarkets, caterers and other shops.
The produce hasn't passed its used-by date, but would have been chucked away.
More than 5,000 older people in the northern town are affected by malnutrition, or at risk of it, The Chronicle reported.
The café's food comes from a charity called FareShare, which delivers a variety of leftover produce from the food industry every week. It will run in the Deckham Community Centre on Split Crow Road every Wednesday and Thursday.
The café will run twice a week
Margaret Maughan, 77, from Gateshead told The Chronicle: “I worked all my life then when I retired I got a part-time job in a supermarket which helped supplement the pension. But I had to stop a few years back because I was struggling with my hip. Since then, money has been much tighter and I’ve tried changing electric and gas companies but their bills keep going up."
“I now have to work out a food budget each week and look at special offers in the supermarket but even then my diet is pretty basic.
“I like the idea of going somewhere you can offer what money you have without worrying whether it’s enough. But, the reality is, it’s quite sad it’s come down to this.”
Gateshead was one of five areas in the UK to pilot a national 'Malnutrition Prevention Programme' in 2014-15.
The café operates on a 'pay-what-you-can' basis
Carole Wood, Gateshead Council’s director of Public Health, said the café combined two essential factors in older people's lives: Nutrition and friendship.
"There are many ways older people can become malnourished and we know not having enough money to eat well can be one of them," she said. "Malnutrition in older people is particularly worrying as they are more susceptible to serious ill-health because of it."
Meanwhile, a local company, North Group, has donated £5,000 to the Gateshead food bank, allowing it to buy a van to feed more older people in the community.