On Sunday 20th March 2022, the Mayor of Haringey awarded Haringey Heroes certificates to food bank manager, Susan Jarrett, and Elder Claudette Young for their charitable work at the Tottenham Food Hub. Their voluntary service to the local community saved a lot of people from descending into food poverty and homelessness. Both their offer of food and friendship helped those negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic to recover. So what is it that makes the Tottenham Food Hub go from success to success as a Haringey Hero?
The Northumberland Park ward of Haringey which has a population of just under 15,000 people where the Tottenham Food Hub is based has the highest unemployment rate in London and the second highest unemployment rate in the country. Many of the residents have been in long-term unemployment because they have not found the right job and find it difficult to bounce back into the workplace. It is into this empty space that the Tottenham Food Hub steps into on a social mission to deliver a solution that helps them realise their full potential.
The Tottenham Food Hub provides a unique contribution to the local community by touching the lives of the unemployed and rough sleepers in a relational way through food and conversation. It is a community of character formation that provides both healthy food as well as relational conversations.
Rev. Jason Young, pastor of Gospel Temple Apostolic Church that runs the Tottenham Food Hub project, says: “One impact that our work has had on the local community is reducing levels of food poverty and increasing access to employment opportunities. We have come across service-users who were not allowed to progress to any higher office in their place of work and ended up either redundant or sacked. Others were unable to obtain employment and were turned out of their flat as a result. Our work provided sustenance to prevent them from stealing in shops and support to those who were made homeless including single mothers whose only source of food was what they received from us.
“One long-term change that we have seen is improvement in their emotional health and social wellbeing. Employment has eluded many of our service-users. Financial instability has followed and debts have mounted up in unemployment. Filling in application forms online is a time-consuming exercise with no guaranteed rewards. Many service-users have felt shut out of the job market for good because there is no room for them in the workplace. Claiming Universal Credit may have provided them with an allowance and opened the door to housing benefit, but it did not address their emotional wellbeing. But by coming to the Tottenham Food Hub they have formed a sense of community that they would not ordinarily have had. We have transformed the solitary confinement of unemployment that comes with the physical absence of a job into a community of socialised human beings. Our work has touched the hearts of many people across the local community because if we were not there many would have starved and some would have been homeless. It is into this gap that service-users have come to us to fill in the holes and support them during their difficult times.
“We believe that every human being has the right to gainful employment to provide for themselves and their family. Depriving people of gainful employment spreads across the community. Spending money employing people or funding their self-employment benefits society as a whole. Until our service-users secure gainful employment or successfully transition into self-employment we have to stand in the gap by making sure they do not fall below the food poverty line as a result of a lack of employment opportunities. Unemployed people are human beings and the pain and hurt that is suffered by husbands and fathers who cannot provide food for their families while they are unemployed is undeniable. Unemployment is damaging to the mental well-being of service-users. Hopefully we can get everyone back into employment or self-employment.”
It is clear that the Tottenham Food Hub is a food-based experience that is not limited to Tottenham’s Living Room but spills out of the building into the lives of service-users who are at risk of hunger. The Tottenham Food Hub could not have taken shape without the eco-system of volunteers willing to give up their time, energy, and skills to make sure that each person in need that comes to the Tottenham Food Hub is fed. This is why they are Haringey Heroes.
Written by: Pastor Jason Young