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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Jonathan Kanengoni

Gangs of London stars join volunteers to help people struggling through cost of living crisis

Stars of TV series Gangs of London gave out food parcels in east London as the cost-of-living crisis continues to hit UK households.

Young people from community projects Rise 365 and Made Up Kitchen were joined by the actors from the gritty Sky One drama on the Kingsmead estate in Hackney.

They gave out food at their community shop on Saturday that had come from The Felix Project, London’s largest food redistribution charity.

Felix, the partner charity of the Standard’s Food for London now campaign, save surplus food from going to waste and distribute it to around 1,000 schools and community projects across the capital. 

(Lucy Young)

These include foodbanks, homeless and domestic abuse shelters, and refugee support services.

One of the stars of Gangs of London Pippa Bennett-Warner, has been supporting Felix since lockdown.

Initially the actress became aware of The Felix Project when she received a gift from fashion brand Mulberry, who were working with the charity. Pippa was then put in contact with The Felix Project and has been volunteering ever since.

Pippa started her morning at the charity’s Poplar depot where she helped Relationship Manager Marcus Roberts pick and load the food for Rise 365 onto the Felix van. They then drove to Hackney and met the other actors, who surprised the young people on the estate by helping on their project.

Speaking about her experience with The Felix Project, she told the Standard: “During lockdown I had a lot of time to think about everything, and I just had this real desire to give back and help out, and that’s how it happened.

(Lucy Young)

“When I did my first volunteering with Marcus, he brought me into Rise 365 and introduced me to Joyclen and her team, and all the work she’s been doing, and they’ve been doing in the community.

“To see how far this food goes, that otherwise would have been thrown in the bin and wasted, is wonderful.”

“The cost-of-living crisis and people not being able to get food, that’s a pandemic in itself, so I think to be able to do this and help charities like The Felix Project, it’s just so nice to be here and help.”

The Felix Project relationship manager Marcus Roberts said the food the community centre provides is more vital than ever.

He said: “We did a big survey with YouGov where we questioned lots of people earning under £20,000 a year – what we found was most of those people have a maximum of £3 a day to spend on breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“That’s why charities like The Felix Project are doing amazing work, we rescue this healthy food from top suppliers like Ocado, Tesco, Sainsburys, Marks and Spencer, and take it and give it to people who are really appreciative and need that food.”

(Lucy Young)

Joyclen Buffong, founder of Rise 365, works with The Felix Project creating food packages for the community shop.

She says she created the Rise 365 project to help young people overcome challenges they face within society.

Ms Buffong added: “It’s really about changing the narrative about how young people are perceived. I feel like were doing great work towards that. The image for young people, particularly in Kingsmead estate - which is notoriously know as a bad area and stuff - if you Google it now it’s positive stuff coming up in terms of what young people are doing.”

“I think it’s very organic and natural – all live in the same community and want the same things for themselves and for others around them.”

Made Up Kitchen was founded by Kiran Chahal to nourish and empower communities, mostly harnessing surplus to create abundance.

Through the pandemic they created 40,000 culturally appropriate meals for their community with young leaders from Rise 365 delivering to their neighbours.

Rather than using the food bank model, they decided to transform into the more empowering model of a community shop, so more people could be part of supporting the Hackney Community.

Mr Chahal said: “We started off activating this space to create culturally appropriate meals for the community and the young people and then we transitioned into community shop, simply because it’s a more empowering model.

“So far, we’ve provided 100,000 bags of shopping for our community. They give us £10 and we give them six to eight bags of shopping, that’s a whole week’s worth of shopping worth approximately £60.”

Made Up Kitchen has outgrown their current space, and is aiming for the Wallyfoster Community Centre as the next move, which will be big enough to support their growing social value project – as it will create a financially sustainable model.

Andrew Wallace, 57, has been using the community shop since 2019, and received food package deliveries after a hip operation last year, which left him unable to collect food in store.

He said: “What they believe in, the hard work they do, the belief that no one in the community should ever go hungry, that’s what it’s all about here.”

The quality of the food packages and support Mr. Wallace has received has helped his health both physically and mentally.

“I’m actually losing a bit of weight because I’m eating proper fresh food,” he says, “it’s not just the food, it’s the people, the staff, the children, it gives you a sense of community and well-being.

“I’ve made friends, from all corners, and it helped me mentally. Coming here makes us feel good, and that £10 for the food packages makes you feel like you’re not freeloading – you’re paying your way.”

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