MEET THE BLUEPRINT ARCHITECTS
At the heart of the Just Food and Climate Transition (Just FACT) programme is the ‘blueprint architects’, a group of Tower Hamlets residents who care about creating positive change in their communities.
Over the next 5 years, they’ll be helping research and create the ‘blueprint’ for an environmentally sustainable and socially just food system for Tower Hamlets.
Aneita and Fatima are part of this group. We interviewed them about their experiences of the food system in Tower Hamlets.
Aneita, 48, is a single mum to an 8-year-old daughter and works part-time for the NHS. She’s lived in the East End her whole life and believes that everyone should have the right to access quality healthy food.
I just want people to know that there’s people like me that are born and bred in the East End that take an interest and we want to make a change. Someone can literally have no money but they still want to live a healthy lifestyle or they still want to save the planet.
People who haven’t got much money don’t have a wider choice of what food they can buy. If you’ve got £20 and you’ve got to do shopping you’re going to go for whatever is cheap. I was in a situation where I had less than £100 a month for food and clothes shopping for me and my daughter. That was absolutely tough going. It’s literally you’ve got to watch your pennies. I really had to go back to basics and cook everything from scratch – this was like ‘how many meals can I get out of a tray of mince’?
People are crying out for community because Covid has highlighted how isolating it is to be on your own. People need human contact, they need spaces where they can mill around, have a cup of tea, pick up some fruit and veg, maybe even a little cake or something. They need that. We’re human beings. We’re built to be companions, to be there and to help people.
Fatima, 27, has called Tower Hamlets home for over two decades, having moved to the borough from Somalia when she was a young child. She’s passionate about cultivating community through food and sport and is the Co-Founder of ‘Roots & Fruits’. In particular, she works to make plant-based eating more equitable and accessible to people of colour.
[My family] were really welcomed by the Somali community that had settled in Tower Hamlets. I was really young at the time and everything was very new to me. We definitely relied on the community and I don’t know if things would have been so easy if we’d settled anywhere else so I feel pretty lucky to have come here.
I have a passion for sustainability, especially the health and wellbeing angle. Of course having a lower environmental impact through our food system is really important but I think what drove me to this area is the health inequalities people like my family and my community were facing.
Outside of my day job, I work on a project focussed on making plant-based eating accessible to people of colour and people from a lower socio-economic background called Roots & Fruits London. We’ve found that plant-based eating can be a bit exclusionary. So we want to make it more open and offer recipes from different cultural backgrounds and how to make them plant-based, even if you’re not fully plant-based. Just making it more friendly as a community.
The borough has had a lot of regeneration happening and as a young person it can be really fun and exciting to try all these different foods. But then you also think people who’ve lived here all their lives might not come to these places because of the cost, or because it doesn’t feel like it’s for them. So it’s about businesses opening here really welcoming and supporting the community. Otherwise there’s going to be a bit of a divide.
READ MORE ABOUT THE JUST FACT PROJECT