9 inspiring food aid projects

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Emergency relief can be done in better ways. Frideswide O’Neill and Hazel Healy show how nine groups are doing things differently...


Food aid now saves millions of people in the rich world from hunger. Many people help: restaurant owners, staff and volunteers at foodbanks, and meal programmes. These have given families food in school holidays and helped when people don’t get enough benefits. But sometimes, charity doesn’t last very long, or people find it impossible to stop using it.

Many groups are trying to do things differently. Some are trying to give more respect to people, give vouchers for fresh food or run anti-poverty campaigns.

Here are nine examples of groups – collectives, restaurants and foodbanks – that are exploring ways to feed people. These different ways question the deeper injustice, or try to bring in solutions to hunger that change the systems. These are only a few – there are many more.


A food box from Co-operation Town. Credit: Shiri Shalmy

1 Co-operative buying power

Co-operation Town says ‘solidarity not charity’. This mutual-aid movement started in Kentish Town in 2019, and the people who started it believe that food co-operatives across the country can help food poverty. They ask people, online, to set up their own co-ops – places where members buy and give out food in big amounts. This makes healthy food cheaper for everyone and when they get donations, they can also give food to help people. This movement is to help people get cheaper food, and to build a strong movement led by the community. Based in poorer communities in Camden, Co-operation Town gave out 25,000 food boxes the first UK Covid-19 lockdown.


2 A National Food Service

Many social-eating spaces have started around the UK, from Glasgow, Scotland to Falmouth, Cornwall. Groups like the Super Kitchen cook group meals from extra food. Some groups are working on a plan to start national restaurants supported by the government, called National Food Service (NFS), like in the war. These meals can bring together different groups of people and different social classes. The NFS wants to help with the connected problems of food poverty, food waste and social isolation with these community-managed, state-supported kitchens, eating areas and cafes.


Credit: Southern Solidarity

3 Challenging power dynamics

When lockdown started in New Orleans, Jasmine Araujo, an artist, started the ‘emancipatory mutual aid group’ Southern Solidarity. The team now give away as many as 500 meals every day and they have recently moved into New York too. They believe that everyone they involve - people who eat and people who provide food – must work on the reasons for hunger and poverty. They do not trust the charity models that need people from outside coming in to help. The main organizers in the group are homeless people, ex-prisoners, and trans activists.

Inspired by the Black Panthers’ breakfast clubs where they discuss and develop ideas, Southern Solidarity encourages members to join reading groups, do training and work for their rights.

4 Solidarity price

Last month Granville Community Kitchen (GCK) started a Good Food Box with two different prices: a ‘start’ price and a ‘solidarity’ price. People who have enough money to pay more (solidarity) support people who don’t (start price). Organizers also make sure food is suitable to local culture: there are choices of yams, plantain and African ginger.

GCK does not want people who choose the lower price to feel bad, so there is no need to prove they don’t have money. This is important because they work in Brent, a part of London where a third of people officially live in poverty. The 2-price system is because GCK wants to improve inequality.


The Union of Land Workers (UTT) bringing vegetables to the plazas of Buenos Aires, Argentina in March, 2020. Credit: Carol Smiljan/NurPhoto

5 Direct supply

In Argentina, the Land Workers Union (UTT), a small group of farmers, often have ‘verdurazos’ or ‘mega-veg’ events. This is when farmers go to the cities to give away fruits and vegetables such as lettuce, aubergine and peppers, and sell directly to the public. So they don’t need to pay the higher prices in shops. Rosalía Pellegrini from UTT says it is a human right to have good food, and companies should not sell us highly processed food. The UTT and friends often protest against government policies, for example where very big farms expand and plant more food to export when the hunger is increasing at home.


Food Cycle turning leftover food into healthy meals in Byker, Newcastle. Credit: Tessa Bunney

6 From charity to justice

Why Hunger says that the US has the most efficient emergency food system in the world, but they still have hunger – almost 12 per cent of the population are food insecure. Why? CTHG (Closing the Hunger Gap), a US network of 185 organizations, say that private charity is not the answer. They say we need more than just charity to work on the causes of hunger that are social, economic and environmental.

CTHG helps organizations change from giving food to finding the social and political solutions. They say we will only have food justice when we have racial and economic justice. Also, UK big food distribution companies like the Trussell Trust are campaigning more against poverty and austerity; the international Global Solidarity Alliance for Food, Health and Social Justice has written a list of what food charities need to do to help more.


A volunteer pictured at Byker Pantry, (points-based shopping, in Newcastle), UK. Credit:Tessa Bunne

7 Building a regional food economy

The Knowsley Kitchen in Merseyside say their food project supports local people to get good, healthy food even when they have problems eg. losing jobs or getting ill. Families with more money in Liverpool and Merseyside can buy boxes of food or a child’s packed lunch for families that have problems. The Kitchen also gives ingredients, recipes and cooking equipment to families to help them be independent and give them choice. To improve the regional economy, it works with independent businesses like co-operative bakery HomeBaked Anfield (who give bread and pies for boxes of groceries) and the social enterprise Alchemic Kitchen (that makes food people can eat from waste food). This links environmental and social justice.

8 Holiday hunger

Since the Covid-19 pandemic 900,000 children have registered for free school meals in Britain. Before there were already 1.4 million. But we needed a long campaign by Marcus Rashford (a young Manchester United footballer, who went hungry when he was a child) to make the UK’s Conservative government agree to give children food in the winter holidays.

Rashford and friends started a petition to end child food poverty. They got more than 1 million signatures. More than 2,000 restaurants, cafes and chip-shops showed that food business owners wanted to feed children over the October half-term holiday, even if the government didn’t. For example, Refill Store in Cornwall delivered more than 70 food parcels.

9 Food sovereignty

In Johannesburg, South Africa, neighbours helped to feed everyone when many people lost jobs in lockdown. The Ubuntu Project delivers boxes of fresh food and also plants and compost to help people to grow food. Recently people have seen cities as places to produce as well as consume; and the pandemic has made everyone work more to create and maintain urban food spaces. Organizers provide education and business support for people who want to be farmers. They say that food sovereignty means much more than putting food on the table. It is about human dignity. Ubuntu means ‘I am because you are’; helping each other by local action when we know what each person needs.

Frideswide O’Neill is a writer and doughnut maker. Hazel Healy is a co-editor at New Internationalist magazine

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: https://newint.org/features/2020/11/17/9-inspiring-food-aid-projects

(This article is in easier English so it is possible that we changed the words, the text structure, and the quotes.)