Updated: Oct 11, 2021
At the start of London Challenge Poverty Week, Be Enriched CEO and Founder, Kemi Akinola, who herself once faced the difficult decision between turning on her heating and putting food on her plate, reflects on the situation facing many, and how each and every person can make a difference.
In 2006, while cycling, Kemi Akinola was hit by a car and fell into a coma. After two months she was still very sick but able to be discharged. Due to the nature of her injuries, she was unable to climb stairs or work, and had to move home and claim welfare benefits at the job centre. Despite arriving with a zimmer frame, in community transport, and with paperwork, she was declared fit for work and her claims were refused. For the coming months, Kemi had little money coming in, and frequently had to balance the need to eat with other basics, including paying the rent, travelling to hospital appointments and turning the heating on.
Fast forward 15 years, and she’s now the Chief Executive Officer of Be Enriched and Managing Director of Brixton People’s Kitchen (BPK), charities based in Lambeth and Wandsworth which work to bring people together, develop their skills, and provide them with access to healthy food.
While Kemi’s story is quite unique, the problems she faced are common to many Londoners. This is even more pronounced as the capital recovers from a pandemic that has touched the lives of everyone in it, and beyond.
Yet, it doesn’t have to be this way, as Kemi explains below:
“Poverty restricts people’s lives in hundreds of different ways – and it’s women, children, minority groups and disabled people who are often affected the most. At Be Enriched’s Community Canteens. where volunteers come together to prepare meals using surplus food, we see so many who are struggling to feed themselves or put food on the table for their families.
“It’s a problem that only becomes worse in school holidays, when children are without free lunches, and our Healthy Holidays programme both helps to provide development activities for youngsters, and makes sure they get a good meal during the day.
“In some instances, people cannot even get to a supermarket, or afford the food that is on the shelves there. We saw this with BPK’s shop and café, and what a difference it makes. That’s why I worked with the Be Enriched team to develop The London Food Bus, a converted double-decker that travels to key areas in the boroughs, allowing locals to access something that is more nutritional than a microwave meal or a takeaway.
“Now more than ever, we need to follow my recipe of adding together opportunities, sprinkling in some advice, and baking connections to create something that has healthy food at its centre. We need to turn compassion into action. We need to put this situation right so that everyone has a decent standard of living that allows them to grow and progress in their lives. We hope lots of local people will think about how they can help challenge poverty together.
“It could be making a donation of food, or money, to our efforts, volunteering their time at one of our projects, or helping to share this message. It doesn’t even have to be with us, the important thing is to do what you can to challenge poverty and help make a difference to the many Londoners who need it.”
They can also give to support BPK’s efforts through Global Giving.
Alternatively, individuals can shop via particular websites, which provide a charitable donation based around what is spent: Use Amazon Smile or Easy Fundraising and select Be Enriched as the charity to donate too.
You can also volunteer your time at one of Be Enriched’s Community Canteens, via the charity's website