Full Shelves Yet Empty Bellies? How Charity Meals are Helping the Community.

Full Shelves Yet Empty Bellies? How Charity Meals are Helping the Community.

In developed western economies, where the supermarket shelves are bursting with produce, and fast-food shops and coffee houses are multiplying at a rate of knots, why is it that, in 2023, one in seven people have fallen into food poverty and face hunger on a daily basis? Why is it that the emotional distress caused by visiting a food bank is leading to increasing bouts of depression and social isolation for millions of people right across developed nations?

It takes a village to make a community

Charity Meals is a newly launched international charity that is already working in over 14 countries, focusing on developing communities through food and water. Its operations manager, Sally Majid explains how finding the answers to such questions is what drove the team to set up Charity Meals in their hometown of Bradford in the UK.

“You can physically see how the lack of food is driving people out onto the streets,” commented Sally Majid. “Not only are there increasing numbers of homeless on the streets, but we know that there are children, single parents, and elderly sat in cold homes with empty cupboards, too ashamed to even venture into a food bank. The hunger itself is merely the surface of a much deeper problem – that of isolation and despair, which in itself is symptomatic of a broken society. Charity Meals wants to tackle hunger by empowering the community and pulling together through love, acceptance and inclusion, no matter what is going on in the outside world.”

The main premise of Charity Meals is the establishment of a growing network of community kitchens. These kitchens will form the warm and welcoming hub of the organization, a place where all individuals within the community can come together to both prepare and cook meals, and to eat.

“You may be a young single mother who is barely able to put food on the table due to the soaring cost of living coinciding with a drop in benefits. While you can buy food at a food bank, you may not even be able to cook it as you don’t have enough money to even put the oven on. Coming to somewhere like a Charity Meals community kitchen will not only surround you with the loving support of the local community, it will empower you by allowing you to give back to the community by helping to prepare meals while feeding your own family. Rather than sitting in a cold house with bare cupboards, you will be surrounded by love and support.”

Embracing diversity

This all-embracing love is a theme that runs through every conversation with Charity Meals. This small team is as diverse in their religious beliefs (the team includes Muslims, Christians and Catholics) as they are passionate about their mission. And while the initial focus is on looking after the local community, their ambitions extend much further.

An emotional safety net

Pride and shame are overriding emotions for many individuals who see themselves tumbling into destitution. Often it is what can drive many – particularly men who see themselves as the main provider for a family – to the brink of suicide. Men – and more specifically those in their 40s and 50s – continue to account for three-quarters of the UK’s suicide rate.

However, it is not the focus of Charity Meals to help one demographic of society – but to bring them all together under one roof as part of a community effort to care for, feed and water the most vulnerable in a way that is not shining a spotlight on them individually. The spotlight is on eradicating hunger as a collective that is working together. The Charity Meals community kitchen will provide that emotional safety net that gives individuals from the local community a sense of purpose without highlighting any specific issue. If they want to talk, they can. If they don’t, companionship is sometimes enough.


Image from Daniel Jezura for Charity Meals. Article by Kate Ashley-Norman

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