The Community Food Projects Every Londoner Could Get Involved In

With a staggering 8000 people sleeping rough on London’s streets each year, it’s time to rethink those outdated opinions of homeless people as with such a high number of people now living on the streets and many being priced out of the capital, it really can affect those closer to home.

Homeless people are not an entirely different breed of people – fact.

So, why do we ignore those on the street or cross the road when somebody comes over asking for any spare change? 

For too long, society has been inundated with ancient opinions and many of these surround those living on the streets. Many Londoners think of themselves as successful, career-driven and hardworking but whilst this behaviour is seen as typical of the fast-paced city we inhabit, it is also mainly responsible for the superiority complex that many have regarding homeless people. Swap the judgement for a helping hand and I’m pretty sure London will feel much better for it. In a society that’s constantly educating itself and using social media to better inform others on social injustices, it should also be time for the thinking around homelessness to shift to being one highlighting the need for change and outreach.

The social awkwardness surrounding homelessness is also a massive barrier in the way we speak about this topic. You can see it in any tube carriage when somebody comes around rattling a paper cup asking for change – people eagerly looking into their phones, gazing at the adverts that they’ve somehow avoided looking at for the previous leg of the journey or sometimes, just a tut of the teeth and a shake of the head.

In this day and age of contactless cards and Apple/Google Pay, many of us genuinely don’t have change on us but do have good intentions. So, I guess the question should be what can we do instead? For many, buying a meal for someone is always a quick solution to this ethical dilemma but after that small feeling of satisfaction usually comes a mix of guilt at only being able to do so much and wanting to do much more for the people involved.

London is awash with great initiatives and community projects designed to help those who may be sleeping rough or just need an extra helping hand. The Brixton Pound Café is an excellent example of this – London’s first restaurant where you pay-what-you-can and therefore encourages those in more fortunate positions to donate more in order to help those who may not have as much. Whilst London may not have the picture-perfect, postcard version of community that many in the suburbs feel that the city lacks, it does do the whole community thing well in its own respect.

Food is often the glue that brings people together – whether it be your beloved Sunday family roast or cooking for friends. Unfortunately, for those who are homeless, food no longer becomes a concept of enjoyment but is limited to necessity and where the next meal can come from.

Fortunately, groups such as ‘Food For All’ and ‘Streets Kitchen’ both operate around the Camden/Kentish Town area and all offer hot meals to those who need it. There’s a plethora of community-based projects to get stuck into, ranging from donating to your local food bank (see details here), collecting surplus food from major supermarkets or lending a hand in preparing and serving meals. A small list of groups operating around London include:

1.      The People’s Kitchen – just turn up on a Sunday afternoon in their selected areas, help prepare a delicious vegan meal using surplus food and meet new people in the process

2.      FoodCycle – uniting and nourishing communities using surplus food

3.      FareShare – saving good quality, in-date surplus food and redistributing it to charities across the UK

The above charities and organisations are just a few examples of the community-based initiatives you could be a part of and shows that if you want to help, there’s certainly vast opportunity for it. Apps like Olio are all about donating food to others and many use it as a tool to get the community together and distributing the food rather than keeping it for yourself.

The problem is growing quicker than you may think - Stratford Centre now has a reportedly 100 people sleeping rough there each night but fortunately, Lola’s Homeless Group is made up of volunteers who hand out food and sleeping bags to those who need them. Just another example of how developing a small volunteer community can contribute to a wider sense of community and help those who really need it.

Déjà Vu is all about developing a sense of community through the experiences each of us has when eating or drinking out. Whilst the London food scene is awash with new and exciting places to dine out at, it’s also important to remember many people don’t have the luxury of being able to make that decision. You can truly #unlocksomethingdifferent and help those who need it by offering any assistance to local groups that help the homeless.

Morgan Cormack