Food Farmacy: Your healing kitchen

Based in Cardiff, NSW, the cafe serves a variety of healthy plant-based foods.

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At Food Farmacy, the Adventist health message is more than alive and well. It is being used to promote wellness and healing in the community in a delicious and Instagrammable way. 

Based in Cardiff, near Newcastle (NSW), the plant-based, decaf-only cafe opened its doors in November 2021 with a clear mission to educate, connect and transform individuals towards optimal health.

From photogenic, signature wellness bowls to energising, chemical-free hot and cold healing drinks, Food Farmacy is championing the belief that food is medicine and defying the decaf stigma amongst coffee lovers. More than that, it is also supporting local farmers and producers, educating the community, helping people improve their health and reverse lifestyle diseases. 

The project is the brainchild of North New South Wales Conference health director Camila Skaf who has been running health promotion and lifestyle medicine programs in the area since she moved to Newcastle in 2016. 

“I wanted to create a space for learning, sharing and ultimately to be a hub for the community to meet every day to grow together. So I dreamed of a cafe and wellness hub that would house all that,” she explains. 

The dream took five years to become a reality. The two biggest challenges: finding the right team and raising enough funds. “Raising money for a brand-new concept—a whole-foods plant-based cafe that only serves anti-inflammatory drinks, which means no caffeine coffee—was the real challenge. Nobody was willing to fund that ‘risky’ initiative.”

The brave person who bought into the idea was the founder and CEO of ATUNE Health Centres, Simon Ashley, who came in contact with the Adventist health message through Ellen White’s books. 

“When we met Simon, he shared he was investing in a new clinic in Cardiff to service the whole region with integrated care, and that after reading the health books by Ellen White, he wanted to partner with Adventists to share the complete care health message we’re all about. He invited us to open a cafe and wellness hub on the main floor of his new clinic and we started working on a business plan,” Mrs Skaf said. 

As an integrated part of the clinic, the concept of the cafe was developed around the idea that ATUNE patients could be prescribed healing foods or health improvement programs offered by the cafe. Mrs Skaf explains that this concept was the basis for the name Food Farmacy “and the choice of spelling ‘Farmacy’ with ‘Farm’ refers to our concept of eating whole foods, seasonal from farmers, as local as possible”.

Camila Skaf (centre) with Food Farmacy staff Janelle Ing (left) and Melissa Vincent (right).

Decaf only

Seen by many as risky, the decision to make Food Farmacy a caffeine-free cafe was one of the core principles of the business plan. “We know caffeine has side effects and causes long-term health damage, and we wanted a place that served 100 per cent healing drinks,” said Mrs Skaf. 

After much research, the cafe opted to include a healthier coffee alternative: decaf. The coffee served at Food Farmacy goes through the Swiss Water process, which can gently remove caffeine from coffee beans using water, temperature and time. It’s free of chemicals or residual processing flavours. 

“I wasn’t going to serve decaf unless I could provide the same flavour experience of real coffee, without chemicals or fake additives.” After purchasing the highest quality grinder and espresso machine on the market, Mrs Skaf claims they have “become the best decaf coffee place in the region!”

Serving organic, locally roasted coffee in small batches and freshly ground on location, Food Farmacy is offering a beverage that even coffee lovers fail to recognise is decaf.

“There is significant evidence people are consuming too much caffeine, which is harming health. Here we offer a healing alternative, and it still tastes like the real deal,” Mrs Skaf said. 

Beyond healthy meals

With the vision of being a wellness hub, Food Farmacy is not a regular plant-based cafe. It is a strategic centre of influence that counts on the collaboration of a core team and health and wellness professionals who contribute to programs, workshops and health clubs run at the cafe to support and educate the community. 

An important member of the core team is Brazilian nurse Diana Dias. With her vast experience in lifestyle medicine as the former managing nurse at Health Living Center (CEVISA)—a medical educational spa run by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Brazil, based in São Paulo—Miss Dias is responsible for coordinating programs and health clubs at Food Farmacy. 

Currently, three evening health programs are being run: CHIP (Complete Health Improvement Program) is run regularly on Wednesdays by a team that includes a doctor, a nutritionist, a nurse and a chef; Lift—also known as Live More—focusing on mental health with a wholistic approach, is run once a week by a team that includes a counsellor who offers support for the discussion groups; and the newest program, Enhance Your Gut Health, which started on October 17, focuses on the digestive system and is run with the help of a nutritionist.

There are also two active health clubs: Tuesday’s cooking club teaches participants to prepare easy and delicious plant-based foods; and every Friday morning, the walking group motivates people to get moving and exercise together.

Food Farmacy also partners with other local community businesses to run lifestyle workshops such as the Sourdough Bread Made Easy by Living Loaf (Janelle House) on Sundays. The long-term plan is to have something for everyone seven days a week. “We would like to have more leaders and volunteers to offer ELIA Wellness programs, Dr Nedley’s mental health programs, and constantly innovate to be relevant to the needs of the community,” said Mrs Skaf. 

Even though Miss Dias has seen many lives transformed through lifestyle medicine in her career, seeing the results of these programs in ATUNE patients and community members still amazes her. 

For example, Lisa experienced excellent results. Diagnosed with diabetes, she heard of CHIP and attended the program at the cafe. “She travelled once a week for nine months from the Central Coast, but it was worth it because, after the program, her GP informed her that her fatty liver issue was fixed, cholesterol levels were balanced and her diabetes was in remission!” Miss Dias said. Now Lisa attends their weekly health club. 

Miss Dias serving and checking in on a member of the community.

“People come with the simple goal of having a healthy meal, but they end up leaving with much more than what they came looking for,” Miss Dias said. 

With a committed team, the cafe’s mission is to meet the health needs of the community with a unique and wholistic approach to every person who walks in. 

“The World Health Organization describes health as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’ And that’s what we seek to provide at Food Farmacy,” Miss Dias said.

To learn more and keep up with Food Farmacy updates, visit their website or follow them on Instagram.

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