28 June 2022
Breadline Voices: Soup kitchen serves up 325,000 meals to needy
Solomon Smith is proud to say he grew up in "one of Brixton's most notorious estates". Surrounded by poverty and deprivation, some of his school friends used to steal food to avoid going hungry. These experiences inspired him to set up a soup kitchen, which has now served 325,000 meals and led to him receiving an Our Heroes Award.
"We provide hot meals and hot drinks for the homeless, needy and less fortunate families. Even though we call it the Brixton Soup Kitchen we don’t just cater for people in and around Brixton, we are just based here.
"We have an open-door policy, so you don’t have to be referred. You can literally just walk in off the street and get a service. We provide hot meals, cold meals, warm drinks, clothes, trainers and shoes.
"We also do a gardening workshop where people can grow their own produce and we do training such as CV skills, job searching and mental health work.
"We’ve given out over 325,000 hot meals since the day we started in 2013. We easily help around 100-150 people a day, including homeless and families.
"We also have a 'secret service' for people who are too embarrassed to use a soup kitchen.
"We’ve got cars and vans so we do a lot of deliveries as well, especially on Wednesdays we go up to Harrow Road [in north London] and we provide food to families and homeless people there as well. We easily do up to 20-30 deliveries a day.
"We also get up to around 40 people coming in every day asking about deliveries and up to 40 people coming in for hot meals from Monday to Friday.
"Since Covid, our numbers have risen dramatically. Now because of the rise of cost of living crisis, it has gone up even more. The numbers we are getting now is crazy.
"We get people in jobs that need help, we’re getting students coming in needing food packs and a lot of people still don’t know places like ours exist.
"When we provide people with meals they’re literally over the moon. Those are not one or two stories, there are literally hundreds.
"We’ve been struggling keeping up with demand from the day we started, but we have to keep on going. I’ve never been a person to wait on funding or wait for government to let me know what to do, I’ve literally had to just do it."
This is part of Breadline Voices, a series from The Food Foundation highlighting the realities faced by millions of families plunged into food and fuel poverty as food prices reach a 40-year high.
I've been involved in youth work since I was 14 and worked for Lambeth Youth Council for more than 16 years. I set up the Brixton Soup Kitchen in 2013 because walking around the area at a young age I realised there was a need for support and there weren’t many services around. I didn't want to be one of those people who just complains so I decided to do something and it's just grown from there. My moto is Aspire to Inspire!