Exeposé News online (24 March 2015)
Exeter students are helping to relieve hunger in Exeter’s streets – by spending Saturday lunchtimes giving out free hot food in the city centre.
For the past six weekends, Exeter Food Fight has been preparing and serving hot lunches from their Bedford Square stand on Exeter High Street.
Exeposé spoke to student volunteer Eamonn Custance, who explained that while Food Fight focuses its support on people who live on the streets, the anti-capitalist community group gives out food “to anybody who wants it,” during their sessions.
The group serve lunch from 11:30am until around 2pm. A typical Saturday menu consists of a selection of vegetarian and vegan curries, stews and rice alongside cakes, sesame snaps, tea and coffee. Most of the food is donated, either as ingredients or whole meals.
“There’s the saying: “there’s no such thing as a free lunch,”” explained Custance. “Well, we’re here to disprove that.”
Stressing that in one of the world’s richest societies “we have a situation where people are starving because they have benefits sanctions or benefits cuts,” Custance described the “stigmatisation” of those forced to use food banks to feed themselves and families.
“It’s a scandal that what we’re doing is actually needed,” he continued, “but what we want to do is say, in this act of giving out free food to everybody, that we’re all equally valuable as human beings.”
The group initially tried to source food from supermarket bins, but described that as “actually pretty hard to do in Exeter.”
“The supermarkets lock up all the bins, or worse,” explained Custance. “They’ve put bleach in them to deter people from going in. It’s more than a waste: the message that it sends to people who do that kind of thing is “you’re not needed to be alive,” really.”
“I don’t really want to live in a society which says that if you become poor and homeless, then frankly you should just kill yourself,” said Custance. “I think that’s the message that we send out as a society: that we’re not going to help.”
Noting that the stall has proven immensely popular in the past few weeks, with visits from local councillors and Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw, Custance said: “we get quite a bit of attention: people like the food.”
“We also get people giving us donations, including money donations,” he said, explaining that while the group does not generally take money donations, contributions of food and ingredients are extremely useful. Custance praised the generosity of the Exeter public, saying: “here, people do want to help each other.”
Exeter Food Fight serves hot lunches between 11:30am and 2pm every Saturday in Bedford Square. For more information visit their Facebook page.