Love it or loath it, we are in times of austerity. Poverty levels are high and the use of food banks has tripled in the last year.
Here is a quote from an article in the Independent published on the 16th October.
‘The Trussell Trust, the country’s biggest food bank operator, said it distributed food to 355,985 people, including nearly 120,000 children, between April and September compared with 113,264 during the same period in 2012. It handed out food to more people during those six months than in the whole of 2012, the trust said.
It released the figures days after the Red Cross announced it planned to distribute food aid to the needy in Britain this winter for the first time since the Second World War.
The trust attributed the increase to above-inflation food and energy price rises and pay freezes, as well as the impact of welfare changes in April, including the introduction of the so-called “bedroom tax”, cuts in council tax benefits and changes to the rules governing crisis loans.
It said people going to food banks had started returning food that needed to be warmed up because they could not afford to switch on their electricity.’
These problems are looking set to become long term. Food banks do a wonderful job but they are a temporary hand-out rather than a long term sustainable solution.
Bulk buying and cooking is an extremely affordable way for people to eat. It results in hot meals that cost pennies.
Stonesoup will bring communities together to share their resources. Using existing facilities such as schools, community centers and church halls, people will pay a subscription and give a couple of hours of time, for membership.
Membership means you can have a hot meal however many times Stonesoup is run a week.
The subscriptions pay for the food that is bought in bulk at wholesalers. The hours given create Stonesoup. People can chose either, cooking, preparing, serving, cleaning, tidying, ordering stock, managing memberships etc.
Everyone gets a hot meal.
They also get much more than that.
They get friendships and stronger communities, they can take pride that they have provided for themselves and their families.
They learn new skills. They get to use and teach existing skills.
They get work experience.
Stonesoup will need funding to get the ball rolling, to set systems up and get everything in place. But ultimately it will be entirely self funding.
Not only do we have people, including the elderly and children going hungry, we also have many people in our society who are isolated and lonely.
Modern life means that today strong communities are the exception rather then the rule.
We have adults who lack in skills and experiance affecting their employability.
This idea is perfect for the Bloomberg Mayor's Challenge as it will greatly improve the quality of life, is simple to implement, addresses a challenge faced by all cities and is completely transferable.