Hunger in a festive season
By Das Sreedharan
Express News Service
Like everything has to transmute for some time, a gorgeous summer’s just slipping away slowly into a wet and grey autumn. Mid-summer heat still persists, and London’s greenery and colours continue to shine even in early October. How amazing, this year has gone by so fast and Oxford Street’s already getting ready for yet another Christmas showdown. Nonetheless, restaurants have best of times as the gloomy weather hits on slowly and people eat well through chilled festive season.
A charity called Felix’s Food for London, a new campaign, is a great thought, and new beginning to gather and redistribute surplus food to tackle food poverty in the city. Needy people in homeless units await Felix vans, and they say “we feel it’s more than just food, it brings hope too”, as fresh food is graciously served at no cost.
Whilst we relish too many food choices, we barely appreciate the waste and our careless approach to food. The Felix project tells stories, like that of Marek Martin from St. Mungo’s homeless charity in Ealing who eagerly waits to see food vans arriving every Friday. Marek’s life now requires healthy food more than just to eat something since he’s diagnosed with cancer, which triggered a spiral of decline that eventually led him to becoming homeless.
Marek used to work in a food factory in Park Royal, which supplied snacks and sandwithces to supermarkets, where he witnessed humongous amounts of food being thrown away due to minor mistakes of shape or size. He recollected, “They wouldn’t even give some of this stuff to staff, instead everything had to fly away in front of my eyes into the trash bins. Thousands of people like me today could have been fed with those rejected healthy food.” Having realised this noble initiative, many food outlets now support the Felix mission and crates of unsold goodies flow through these centres every Friday.
It’s hard to imagine starvation in cities like London, but the reality is appalling: the number of the homeless is on the rise and affordability of food is so much harder in an expensive city. And people who could eat well don’t care enough or have a balanced diet to justify their blessings.
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who has been an outstanding crusader for obesity and school lunches, has praised Felix, and is disappointed with the response of middle-class families to his campaign to improve social commitments to fellow citizens. He says, “I’m looking into holiday hunger as 1.37 million deprived children on free school lunches face poverty during holidays. It’s upsetting.”
Amidst this slight gloom in this great city, every South Indian restaurant celebrated Onam in September, the great harvest celebration of Kerala, which commemorates the great ruler Mahabali and his philosophy of “equality, plenty and social justice”. Thousands of people ate traditional meals on banana leaves with the message of being together and sharing happiness and prosperity without prejudice. Fallacy of this great legend goes back to centuries, but the ethos is so valid even today when we forget our duties and compassion to fellow beings.
The author is a London-based restaurateur, who owns the Rasa chain of restaurants