Behind the scenes

Long-time Big Issue Supporter is Taking Action Against Food Poverty

Robert's mobile food bank aims to both alleviate food poverty and combat loneliness

Robert Straw has been a supporter of the Big Issue and regular participated in the Big Issue Night Walk since 2015. Now, Robert is going the extra mile to fight homelessness and poverty.  

Every Saturday morning, you can find Robert leading Action Against Food Poverty and its volunteers around Central London delivering food and some necessities to Big Issue vendors and those in need. The group starts around Holborn station at 10:30 where they walk to Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, Soho, Euston Square, and Kings Cross. By the end, the group has fed around 25-30 people, but has talked to at least 50 people (many of them Big Issue vendors). 

As a mobile food bank, Action Against Food Poverty is set apart by the communication and connections that the group creates as they give out food. The group stops to chat with Big Issue vendors on their route and this personalisation makes the walk special. Robert sees the vendors as friends and looks forward to talking with them each week. This aspect of the walk is just as important as supplying food because then vendors and vulnerable locals know that there are people that care for them.  

So, what do Big Issue vendors think of Action Against Food Poverty? The vendors think it’s great! Covent Garden based Big Issue vendors Sam and Alan (pictured above), are big supporters of the walk. The pair like receiving their Saturday morning cake, having some banter with the group, and have even donated to the cause to ensure the walk can continue each week.  

Tia and Lara from the Big Issue Frontline team, who both participated in the walk, had nothing but good things to say.

“We saw many faces lit up by the prospect of homemade lemon drizzle or fruit cake. It was apparent that Robert’s weekly round of the Covent Garden/Soho area was anticipated by some and appreciated by all. Along the way on the walk, we ran into lots of our wonderful vendors, including Christina, who yelled “LEMON DRIZZLE CAKE” when she saw Robert walking towards her! It’s wonderful to see the support provided to Big Issue vendors and others who may need it, be it through cake and sandwiches or merely the prospect of a friendly and caring conversation.” 

For Robert, his perspective was changed after being in a tough housing situation himself. After that, he began regularly volunteering and supporting 8 charity organisations, one of them being the Big Issue. With Action Against Food Poverty, he is encouraging others to have empathy and spread positivity. 

“Volunteers can gain a lot from the walk. It’s a good cause that just makes you feel like you’re doing some good, but it’s also a way to get out and talk to people you normally wouldn’t. Talking with Big Issue vendors or other people in the area is a way to expand your way of thinking and understanding of the world.”  

Robert hopes that with more community support, Action Against Food Poverty can expand to help more people. Right now, his goal is to be able to provide consistent and regular food to those who need it. In the future, Robert would like to expand the walk as well as provide meal support to kids in school who need it. His next aim is to feed vulnerable children but also to teach them about homelessness and poverty. Big Issue vendors have even expressed interest in helping either by participating in the walk or coming with the group to speak to children in schools.  

Action Against Food Poverty receives support in the form of cash donations, as well as the time from the volunteers that participate in the walk. They also received support through the supply of food and necessities. Both The Arty Vegan and Leiho, who are also available in the Big Issue Shop, are regular supporters. Action Against Food Poverty is proud to be eco-friendly as they use biodegradable materials for the walk and the supplied food is homemade. 

A BIG thanks to Robert and Action Against Food Poverty for helping to support vendors and the local community!  

If you have any free time on a Saturday morning and want to spend it in a positive and rewarding way, consider participating in the walk. If you can’t attend the walk but want to help, you can donate or supply some goodies for the walk. Contact Robert at carefreemarketin@aol.com to learn more! 

Support your local Big Issue vendor

If you can’t get to your local vendor every week, subscribing directly to them online is the best way to support your vendor. Your chosen vendor will receive 50% of the profit from each copy and the rest is invested back into our work to create opportunities for people affected by poverty.
Vendor martin Hawes

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