As food prices continue to soar and food banks struggle to cope with rising demand, food poverty is a problem that isn’t going away in the short term. But there are many dedicated Changemakers across the UK standing up to ensure nothing goes to waste and no one in their community goes hungry.
Through baking, social enterprise Luminary Bakery in London offers a space for women who have had a social or economic disadvantage. Luminary uses baking as a tool to help them obtain skills, and has partnered with Big Issue Recruit, a specialist recruitment service helping people who face barriers into work. After their training ends, the women receive support from Big Issue Recruit to help them find suitable employment.
What was 2023 like for Luminary Bakery?
“This was a big year for Luminary – we celebrated our 10-year anniversary and were even invited to Downing Street on International Women’s Day as part of a celebration of businesses run by women. We’ve come a long way since a small project running baking workshops in a local women’s hostel, and this year welcomed our 200th baking trainee. We were able to support 105 women with baking and employability skills training, mentoring, one-to-one support work and therapy. Luminary Bakery hosted 343 hours of paid apprenticeship hours and over 5,000 hours of employment for graduates of our programmes.”
Why is your work needed?
“Being able to work and have financial independence is so important for women: it makes them safer, it contributes to self-worth and it helps to build a supportive community. We work with some of the most disadvantaged women in London; women who have experienced gender-based violence, including domestic abuse, sexual violence, exploitation and trafficking. Alongside this they face other barriers to employment such as involvement in the criminal justice system or homelessness, creating what we call multiple disadvantages. Starting with baking, we work with them to move towards employment, which will help them build financial independence, social networks and self-esteem, and really transform their lives. The women we work with are brave, talented, determined and resilient and have so much to offer the world – they just needed someone to give them a chance and an opportunity.”
The Courtyard Pantry Enterprise
The Courtyard Pantry is a food project which offers good quality food at low cost to the community in Glasgow. Set up in 2021 to tackle food insecurity during the pandemic, membership to the pantry is open to all, irrespective of circumstances. It costs £1 to join and membership lasts for as long as it is needed. In 2023, Toshie’s Cafe was set up as the next stage of The Courtyard Pantry Enterprise, to provide affordable meals and snacks, particularly to those who are at risk of isolation or disadvantage. The cafe also provides volunteering, training and work experience opportunities for people in the local community who experience barriers to secure employment.
From inside the Station Hotel Pub in Ashton-under-Lyne, Manchester, Pauline Town runs the We Shall Overcome (WSO) project. It’s a solidarity movement supporting people experiencing homelessness or in need of help, particularly those affected by the cost of living crisis. Town puts on live music to raise funds, while also leading a team of volunteers who make around 120 packed lunches every day. Every week she provides food parcels to pensioners who can’t make it to their local shops. Town refers those in need to other local groups or organisations to provide temporary accommodation, gives support to find permanent accommodation and also inspired the Town House, which was renovated by the local council and named after her to provide 20 beds for short-term requirements.
Incredible Edible: Right to Grow
Incredible Edible, a network of more than 150 community growing groups that started in 2008, has spent recent years campaigning for a ‘Right to Grow’ law. This would allow people to grow their own food on disused land, such as road verges and sterile lawns. In October 2023, Hull became the first UK city to back allowing people to grow their own food. IE is now calling for the law to be adopted nationally, having drafted up a bill. The group have also begun hosting a Right to Grow network for people to work together to make this law nationwide.
Fritwell Community Fridge
Fritwell Community Fridge collects unsold, surplus or waste foods from supermarkets and distributors, as well as donations. The food is available to any residents in the North Oxfordshire Three Parishes area, and every year the service offers extra support to vulnerable families at the local school, in the form of Christmas gifts and hampers. They support 25 households a week with food parcels, and have 75+ households coming to the fridge each week. Their nominator wrote: “Kerry Mellor and Jenny who started this are a credit to the community they serve.”
Alexandra Rose Charity
Since 2014, the Alexandra Rose Charity has tackled the twin problems of food poverty and diet-related disease by providing vouchers for fruit and vegetables for pregnant mothers and those with children under the age of four. The vouchers are used in local markets (below), and the charity says 64% of children from families receiving Rose Vouchers now eat at least five portions of fruit and veg a day, up from just 7%.
Tessa Clarke founded OLIO, a free app that connects users with unwanted food from households or local businesses with neighbours living nearby who would like it. It now has over seven million users who have shared more than 150 million portions of food. A team of around 104,000 volunteers across the world collect unused food from supermarkets and homes, saving 22 billion litres of water and avoiding 171,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions. OLIO also produce content to encourage users to save cash and be more climate conscious.
In Harrogate, Resurrected Bites reallocates food that would otherwise be wasted towards people in need. The not-for-profit has pay-as-you-can cafes and grocers where, for a very small amount, people can choose from a vast array of fresh, frozen and store cupboard items. They signpost to other services that can help and also lend an ear. Their nominator wrote: “Harrogate is seen as an affluent town but there are so many people living in food poverty. Without the help from Resurrected Bites, there would be hundreds of people in the area going hungry. Clients who used the service felt the impact of being able to shop fairly and healthily while maintaining their independence.”
Khan is the founder of Maasi’s, a cafe and restaurant which employs women of colour, all of whom are home cooks who never worked in paid employment before. The space Maasi provides for these women has “allowed them to better themselves, build their confidence and empower them”. Her nominator wrote: “Sabrina was not a chef, and had no business experience, but has persevered and made a success of the business. Women of colour face many barriers to employment from within and outside of their culture and Sabrina has provided a platform for these women where they had none before. She is inspirational.”
Our Forgotten Neighbours
For people who are sleeping rough, struggling with mental health, on low income, or refugees, Our Forgotten Neighbours is a lifeline in London. They offer a street kitchen and food bank in Finsbury Park, with a DJ, every Friday. It’s run by husband and wife team Victoria and Vincent Barnett, who receive donations from supermarkets like M&S, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, and hold fundraisers. Since August 2020, they have provided over 25,000 meals. In an interview with Big Issue, Vincent told us: “There are people sleeping on the street outside our front doors. They are our neighbours too. We can’t forget about them. We need to pull together and help these people.”
This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income.