End Hunger supporter Lydia Groenewald is a Church Action on Poverty supporter in Leeds who held a Big Conversation event last week, and tells us how it went.
We hosted a Big Conversation as part of the #EndHungerUK campaign in our church’s community café on Thursday lunchtime. It was really easy to do and enjoyed by everyone involved!
All Hallows Church in Leeds has a café called the Rainbow Junk-tion, and on Thursdays it hosts a Syrian Kitchen. The team co-ordinating the Big Conversation were members of the church, some of whom are also members of the Student Christian Movement (SCM), an #EndHungerUK partner.
All Hallows is situated in a very diverse parish – 50% are students, 25% Muslim and quite a number are refugees or seeking asylum. With Near Neighbours funding we work in partnership with the Leeds Syrian Community to provide a space where anyone and everyone can meet together to enjoy a tasty meal cooked by Syrian chefs. Rainbow Junk-tion is also part of The Real Junk Food Project network to show that food that would otherwise be wasted and thrown away, donated by supermarkets, students, foodbanks and others. All meals are available on a Pay As You Feel basis – there are no prices, and if our customers don’t have money then they can help with the washing up or clearing tables. This ensures that people don’t go hungry because they can’t afford to pay for food, and also provides an equalising space where all are welcome, no matter what your income.
A lot of our café’s customers have experienced hunger first-hand so it didn’t take much encouragement from us to get people to share their ideas about what one thing the government should be doing to end the tragedy of hunger in a country as wealthy as ours. Their suggestions were written on paper plates (they loved the idea of asking the government to ‘step up to the plate’!) and then displayed on the wall of the café for all to see. It was wonderful to hear the conversations develop around the tables as people tried to narrow down their suggestions to just one! You can see many of the suggestions here – they included specific requests such as abolishing sanctions and reducing the price of essential foods, to much bigger asks such as reducing inequality and ending capitalism. It was probably not surprising that, in a ‘real junk food’ café, there were many suggestions relating to the travesty of edible food being thrown away while people go hungry, and the nonsense of best-before dates.
When we explained that their ideas would be shared with our local MP, Hilary Benn, people were a bit sceptical about what impact it would have, but remained keen to be part of the bigger #EndHungerUK movement. Everyone recognised that things needed to change, and soon – no one should be going to bed hungry and our government needs to recognise it has a responsibility to ensure that they don’t. Although, in the meantime, cafés such as ours are helping on the ground.