The Big Food Fight

As a culture we devour everything and anything related to food. What goes into it, where you buy it, how much of it you eat. It’s not surprising that the nourishment that ensures our survival is a key topic of conversation, but it has now become an accepted national obsession. Living in Brixton we’re not short of instagrammable fodder, whether you like you’re of the tiny-plates-of-deliciousness, or the burger-so-dirty-it-should-be-eaten-down-the-back-of-an-alley persuasion. And whilst tucking into the curries, pizzas, crepes, burgers and fried chicken, the fact that it’s supporting predominantly small, local businesses won’t leave a bad taste in your mouth.

But there is so much more to chew over. Food inequality in the UK has become a glaring and inescapable truth since austerity started to bite. An estimated 87,000 people in Lambeth live in poverty, which means a struggle to buy or provide healthy food is a reality for many thousands who are living in the 8th most deprived borough in London. The Young Women’s Trust found that ¼ of young mothers use foodbanks to feed their families.

But Brixton being Brixton has come together to take this enormous issue on. Started in 2011, Brixton People’s Kitchen uses surplus food from local businesses to bring together local people to cook and eat with each other. The project is much more than a way to reduce food waste, it’s focus is on the collaboration of people, learning and sharing skills to cook efficiently and creatively. And they haven’t stopped there. Brixton People’s Kitchen have taken the kitchen to the people, on a bike! With the help of two German designers they have built a fully mobile kitchen on wheels which can go where the people are. They have catered at community festivals, One o’clock clubs, and have helped teach young people cooking skills, as well as feeding them vegetables — this alone is testament to their cooking skills!

The People’s Fridge, located in Pop Brixton, is the new kid on the surplus food block but has achieved a great deal since arriving on the scene barely a year ago. The community food idea heralds from Spain, where a restauranter responded to the desperate situation caused by austerity by placing leftovers in a fridge outside the premises. In Brixton, the fridge was started by volunteers who had attended a ‘Grow your own leaders’ event at the Impact Hub. A crowdfunder to raise funds to buy a fridge raised twice the funds needed, as well as a donated fridge(from a very generous member of Jamie Oliver’s production crew)! Ben, from the project explained the People’s Fridge’s two strengths. The first is that it fills a genuine gap in providing somewhere for businesses to make smaller donations of food, where often food banks would require larger quantities or regularity. Secondly it is an engagement tool, to start the difficult conversations about the unpalatable topic of food waste. As Ben says “it’s engaging without lecturing. Anyone can engage with a fridge”. When People’s Fridge teamed up with Franco Manca for Vegetarian Week recently, 3000 kilos of vegetables were donated by the restaurant through customers swapping vegetables for free pizza. A measure of this genuine community-based project was the small army of volunteers who distributed these vegetables to local organisations.

Want to know how to get involved? Of course you do! The community is the reason that these projects exist and thrive, so be a part of something incredible:

Feed the fridge! For individuals and businesses, chuck it in the fridge instead of the bin. There are some limits on what goes in, check the website for details:

Volunteer. Brixton People’s Kitchen are always looking for help with managing the kitchen and food supplies, arts programming, photography, marketing, and bike mechanics! The next Brixton People’s Kitchen event is on Saturday 29th July. Sign up to volunteer, or go along and enjoy a meal with other locals for a suggested donation:

If you can’t spare any food or time, donations are always welcome. See websites on how to donate.

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