London, United Kingdom – The wide majority of people acknowledge income inequality as an existing trend within British society, but only a few are brave enough to take actions. Euroviews went to one of the oldest independent food banks in London to celebrate Easter and understand how the increasing popularity of food banks, as a result of the unequal distribution of resources, affects the young people and their local communities.
From 2010 to 2015 the number of food banks, organisation that provides and distributes food to those unable to afford it, in the United Kingdom rocketed reaching more than 1000 places spread around the country. One of them is the Christian kitchen located in North East London.
The idea about the kitchen evolved when a kind-heated lady Mory Rhodes, who lived near Walthamstow market in North London, saw a homeless man sleeping in the garage in 1975. The next evening she left a hot dinner next to him with the idea to help. As more and more people started looking for her help, she went to the local St. Mary church with the idea to build a small place that will be able to bridge the gap between rich and poor and will demonstrate humanity.
Almost 40 years later the Christian kitchen, situated in one of the most deprived boroughs in London, has changed the life of many. By helping more than 60 people every single day with hot food and support, the local hub is trying to tackle the rising inequality in London in its own way.
“We don’t want to get too big. Local community appreciate the facts our work is focused. We are not the ones that create the situation, we are the ones that act to it,” says Norman Coe, a manager of Christian kitchen. The 61-year-old Londoner who manages the kitchen for almost 25 years believes the rising inequality between rich and poor has begun long ago 1970s, which is the starting point of the deepening of income inequality that economists mention.
“The system failed ever since 1940 as previously the government was in charge of everything from birth to death. Then it became the individuals’ responsibility to think about their own future. I guess that if you give 100 pounds to two people, one will make success of it; the other will spend it and move on. The fact that someone is rich is not a crime. The problem is how you see it and react to it.”
But when holidays knock on the door, young rich people are more likely to open their hearts for good deeds. This Easter was not an exception. While chefs cooked fish with tomato sauce and baked beans for the poor, a young woman knocks on the window, while holding huge pots full of seafood she cooked. As Norman takes it, she quickly disappears behind the buildings.
“This doesn’t happen very often, but it brings a smile on my face,” says Norman, while he cuts the bread donated from the local shop. He believes young people are much more sensitive when it comes to inequality and are more likely to help. In fact, students from Waltham Forest College are often coming to the kitchen to either help with the preparation of food or its distribution.
The strong engagement received from the youth community inspired the 27-year-old local coach, who is driving the van of the kitchen voluntarily, to organise a charity football match next month and raise money for the kitchen. As Peter Burke is driving towards Walthamstow Market on the Easter Sunday, he explains that at first what inspired him to join the kitchen team five years ago was the necessity to socialise.
“Back then I didn’t have a charity heart and I been not taking into account the increasing gaps between people. Here [in the kitchen] I learned how to serve people. I want to teach more youngsters how to do it as well. My goal is to spread the word. If I don’t do it, who will?” says Burke.
Other young volunteers such as 28-year-old Gemma Davies, who now serves food at the Walthamstow market three days a week, decided to join because of her personal lent.
While she pours the hot chicken soup and distributes it to hungry people, the primary school teacher explains the gratitude that can be felt through people’s eyes can mean much more than siting at home in front of computer. Now as person who is undoubtedly from the middle class, she admits she has the chance to spend more time within her local community.
Besides, the effort of the Christian kitchen is not left unappreciated. The 19-year-old George Adam often comes to Walthamstow market to enjoy the fresh food. As he failed numerous times to join an apprenticeship, the Christian kitchen is the only way he could manage to pay his rent and receive a decent food.
“I feel grateful, because it is increasingly difficult for many young people. We have just not been given a fair chance to grow. Without a good job and education, there is not enough money for everything,” Adam tells Euroviews.
When he finishes his dinner, George disappears in the shadows of the cold April Easter night. For many people like him the face of inequality is familiar. United local communities such as the one at Wathamstow makes lives easier, but there is no doubt a fundamental solution needs to be found so that cases like George’s one becomes an exception in the future.
Read also: Increasing income inequality: the shaky future of the British youth