50,000 meals a week! Camden urged to let food poverty groups use empty buildings
Relief team say they can feed the hungry for free – if council allows use of unused warehouses
18 March, 2021
Sunni Karagozlu from Edible London
UP to 50,000 free meals a week could be prepared and cooked as part of a proposal presented to the Town Hall this week by two leading food charities.
But to do so, organisations Edible London and Food For All – who provide no-cost meals to those in need – are calling on the council to review the empty buildings it owns and offer them to community groups at a peppercorn rent.
The charities have suggested empty warehouses on the Camden-owned industrial estate in Camley Street, King’s Cross, and say if they were given the keys, they could help feed those struggling with food poverty.
They added that if the council opened up buildings across the borough currently waiting for redevelopment or others that have lacked long-term tenants, grassroots organisations would be in a stronger position as they respond to the pandemic. Around 10 per cent of all council-owned light industrial units are understood to be currently vacant.
Edible London director Sunni Karagozlu said groups had developed longstanding connections across the food and catering industry to source free supplies, and worked with councils and other bodies to distribute what they collected. But he warned there was a severe lack of space to operate from.
Mr Karagozlu said: “If we could find affordable space in Camden such as here, we could open up to really big donations. At the moment, many grassroots groups like ours are running at full capacity. We only have room to take a van load at any one time. If we have more space, there is more we can do.”
He added: “Currently, empty buildings are not benefitting Camden. We can make them productive and help them help their residents. We know, with our partners, we can scale up to 50,000 meals a week from a site this size.”
Edible London makes use of surplus stocks from farmers and supermarkets, as well as teaching volunteers to grow their own food.
Mr Karagozlu, whose family were farmers, added extra space would mean they could bring in more volunteers to help and learn new skills.
The Camley Street warehouses are currently being marketed without any rent levels fixed on short-term leases, with those interested invited to make an offer. The council’s terms include a six-month break clause, so if plans for the redevelopments of the site go-ahead, Camden can take it back quickly.
The proposal has some precedent – the council handed over space at a former day centre in Kentish Town to community uses, and houses two food projects.
A council spokesman said Camden would give the Edible London and Food For All’s proposals consideration alongside any other bids received.
“These units at the Cedar Way Industrial Estate are currently being marketed to let on the council’s website,” he said.
“The commercial property management team have not yet received any expression of interest from these groups for these units. “As ever, the council would be happy to review any proposals, when received, alongside all other interested parties.”