In a new blog series Hussina Raja, Just FACT Mobiliser speaks with people working in cafes across north east London, to learn more about the food scene and hospitality sector as well as finding out how accessible these spaces are to the local community. We will be sharing stories from people who are at the forefront of creating inclusive food models and reshaping the narrative around food insecurity.
Cafes – places to eat, gather and connect
Cafes exist as places for people to gather, connect, socialise and enjoy a drink and meal together. However, what do these spaces look like when the cost of the drinks and food on the menu don’t feel accessible for most in the community? Who are these spaces then catering for, and what social responsibility do cafes have, if any, when moving into neighbourhoods that are undergoing mass regeneration?
Food security and the cost of living crisis
We know that food is a primary and physiological human need and so feeding ourselves is a necessity and one that should hopefully be enjoyable and relatively easy to achieve. However, the pandemic has shone a harsh light on the fragility of food security with rising food costs and the cost-of-living crisis affecting the lives of many people on low incomes. This basic act of nourishing ourselves becomes harder to do, and thus exacerbates existing inequalities in many communities. It also leads to further questions about how our food choices impact our health and wellbeing and creates a vicious cycle.
The UK’s rate of food poverty is amongst the worst in Europe, should this be the case for one of the wealthiest countries in the world? The issue of food justice then brings to attention the wide gap and disparity between the wealthiest and poorest communities in the UK, as well as, and more importantly the UK’s welfare system and living wage policy.
A different approach to food insecurity
So how can things be done differently? How can cafes be accessible to everyone in the community? In this series of blogs we look to answer all these questions and more. Read our interviews with people running these innovative cafes, that are putting food justice and their communities first and centre:
Gleaners Café Co-op is based in Walthamstow and has food justice at the heart of their model.
The Curry Club, a pop-up restaurant style dining experience in Hackney, provides delicious 3-course meals on a donation basis for those who can’t afford it.
Talking about the politics of running cafes with Ollie at Bow Brew, a café serving £5 lunches out of St Paul’s Community Centre in Poplar, Tower Hamlets.
This blog was originally published on the Just FACT website.
Hussina Raja, Just FACT Mobiliser
Hussina is a multidisciplinary artist with a background in social justice. She is passionate about working with local community groups and young people. She especially enjoys bringing people together over food. As part of her work on the Just FACT programme, Hussina is interested in exploring the role of cafe business models, their staffing structures and their existence as spaces for socialising and gathering, particularly in areas undergoing mass regeneration. The question of how accessible food is and these spaces of hospitality are for the local community, old residents and new arrivals, is a pertinent issue she wants to understand from the perspective of both the cafe and consumer.