A south London community kitchen, described as bridging the gap between food poverty and destitution, is at risk of closure as a new commercial venture threatens to shut down the community “lifeline.”
Brixton People’s Kitchen, currently based in Vauxhall after failing to secure a place in Brixton due to high rents, say they have been given 12 weeks notice by landlords, the Black Prince Trust, to leave their kitchen.
The social enterprise offers nutritious food and household products to residents in the local area, supporting 340 local homes.
It also offers volunteering and work opportunities to locals with disabilities and vulnerable young people looking for a fresh start.
But now the team say they have been forced to find a new home after their landlord refused the financial offer they made to stay on the premises.
They allege that the Trust also refused to tell them how much the new venture was offering so they could raise their own price and “save” them from having to move again.
MP for Vauxhall Florence Eshalomi has also actively petitioned on their behalf for an extension until September but all negotiations have been rejected, the kitchen told the Standard.
Ms Eshalomi, who relied on free school meals as a child, said: “Covid has had a devastating impact on many families in Lambeth and as the local MP, I have seen first-hand the incredible work they have done to help families get through the Covid crisis.
“They have helped bridge the gap between food poverty and destitution, and the community has come to rely on the community shop.”
The 400 army-strong volunteer team, who have provided affordable lunches to children during half term for two years in Lambeth, now have “deep concerns” for the future of their organisation.
Managing director, Kemi Akinola, who founded Brixton People’s Kitchen in 2011, described the current situation as “truly disheartening” and is asking the general public to sign a petition urging the Trust to review their decision.
But in a statement, the Black Prince Trust, which relies on rental income from its facilities and fundraising, said they had been heavily impacted by the pandemic.
The company, which claimed to be running at a loss, added: “In order to continue to maintain the viability of our community hub and its operations into the future, it is with deep regret that we are no longer able to sustain our support of Brixton People’s Kitchen in their current facility.
“Regrettably, Brixton People’s Kitchen have decided that our proposals of suggested facilities at the Hub, as well as other local venues, did not work for them.
“However, it is our responsibility to look to the future for the Black Prince Trust and preserve this important community asset.
“In this context, we have had to ensure we enter partnerships in respect of the café premises at the Hub that fulfil our criteria to support the community, but also meet our obligation to ensure we obtain market rent for the facilities,” the trust added.
Ms Akinola said the alternative venues suggested, which included a portable cabin at a local car park and outdoor tents similar to the ones being used for vaccine centres, were not sustainable for the kitchen to do their work and outreach.