Charity launches new campaign to eradicate food poverty in north London

Volunteer chefs help Feast With Us produce lovely food for people in need

Volunteer chefs help Feast With Us produce lovely food for people in need - Credit: Feast With Us

After rapidly expanding to meet unprecedented demand, food poverty charity Feast With Us is running a campaign so it can continue its programmes across north London and offer nutrition education to people in need.

The charity started long before the Covid-19 pandemic, but founder Hannah Style, an NHS dietitian, told the Ham&High demand sky-rocketed during the crisis. 

Feast With Us started by running community meals – first in the Conway House hostel in Kilburn before expanding to other locations in Camden – and now it works across Camden, Haringey and Islington.

It has a vast range of partners, including councils, community organisations like JW3, and large firms such as Ikea and M&S.

Feast With Us charity had more than 800 volunteers in 2020

Feast With Us charity had more than 800 volunteers in 2020 - Credit: Feast With Us

Hannah set up the project in 2015 and it became a registered charity in 2017.

She said the expansion during the pandemic was "hard to believe".

She added: "It's actually astonishing how much we are doing. Now we are looking at building our nutrition education scheme. I have learned so much from the process. It's been incredible to work with so many lovely volunteers. So many people have come through and helped to do what they think is right."

Delicious looking food served to Feast With Us users

Delicious looking food served to Feast With Us users - Credit: Feast With Us

Hannah said increased demand was "really noticeable" during the pandemic, adding: "There's definitely greater need across the board. It's people who might be living in their independent homes but they are really struggling, and it's really stigmatising to have to ask for support."

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In 2020 the charity delivered 25,000 meals, saved 11,500kg of food from being wasted and worked with more than 800 volunteers. Hannah expects there will be demand for around 80,000 meals over the course of 2021. 

Feast With Us transformed to deliver a meal delivery service during the Covid-19 pandemic

Feast With Us transformed to deliver a meal delivery service during the Covid-19 pandemic - Credit: Feast With Us

In April 2021 alone, there were 165 volunteers involved with Feast With Us and 6,127 meals served to people in need. Of those, 1,601 were part of its Easter holiday meals programme.

Hannah, who now lives in Barnet, said a community which has grown up around Feast With Us's work, whether through the community meals before the pandemic or the food deliveries and work with foodbanks since then.

She said: "There's a real sense of togetherness through the distress and through the partnership that's really come through."

Hannah was inspired to start Feast With Us by a desire to use her skills as a dietitian in a way which would benefit people she saw struggling every day.

"I would come home after finishing work and realise my work wasn't touching the people on the streets," she said. "I felt I should be using my skills in the community to help people who don't have a GP or an NHS number and are falling through the cracks." 

With a few friends she looked into setting up a community meal at Conway House, and soon built relationships with local supermarkets which, she said, were happy to help by donating unsold stock that would otherwise go to waste. 

She said in the charity's early days, the manager of a local Sainsbury's asked whether his store could donate food more regularly than just once a month – and the store's contribution quickly ballooned.

Looking forward, Hannah said: "With my dietitian hat on I definitely wanted to tackle malnutrition and food poverty - and to reach out to people who need it. 

"There shouldn't be a need for food banks or community meals."

She said she hopes providing education around food will mean the charity can move on from doing "crisis response" to helping people out of food poverty.

The charity held its first education sessions with young people during the Easter holidays this year, and is looking to raise £2,500 to continue this using the Aviva Community Fund platform. 

"The campaign is to help us to provide nutrition support to people using our service. Food parcels are the immediate crisis response, now we want to move to helping with an educational response," Hannah said.

"It'll be a way to help give people a leg up."

To help support Feast With Us's fundraising campaign, visit avivacommunityfund.co.uk/feast-feed-empower-all-sustainably-together

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