LOCAL RESTAURANTS URGED TO STEP UP TO THE PLATE AND HELP TACKLE HOMELESSNESS

Ahead of this year’s annual homeless count, due to take place on 10 November, a campaign has been launched to encourage Brummie restaurants to do what they can to help the homeless. The campaign, named Let’s Feed Brum, challenges eateries to put their money – or rather food – where their mouths are, and head onto the streets to provide food to the homeless. The first restaurant to pledge its support it is local Indian restaurant Itihaas.

Teaming up with local charity Inspiration Support, Itihaas is taking its kitchen to the streets to provide fresh hot food for those who need it most. However, knowing that there is strength in numbers, Itihaas is calling on its fellow restaurants to follow suit and help feed the homeless.

As part of the campaign Let’s Feed Brum, the Indian restaurant will be cooking its curries on the streets for one night a week. Hoping to feed more than 100 people a night, Itihaas’ managing director Raj Rana will be working with team to bring hot food to Birmingham’s streets.

Raj said:

“There is a huge population of homeless people in Birmingham; however, there is a larger population of people that can help. When I heard about Inspiration Support’s work, I knew that I wanted Itihaas to get involved. I went out with Ben, the founder of Inspiration Support, and his team of volunteers to see the situation firsthand and understand more clearly how Itihaas can help. The experience was equally humbling and frustrating: knowing how many people would go hungry without the work of Inspiration Support, and how easy it would be for more people to help, has made me more determined than ever to be part of the change.”

Raj first took action 14 years ago when he began working with the Salvation Army. Donating left over food from catered events to the charity, Raj has collaborated closely with the Salvation Army and has seen firsthand the difference a hot meal can make. However, with the growing homeless crisis in Birmingham, Raj recognised that there was still more to be done and that as a restaurant he had the capacity to be part of that change.

He added:

“Itihaas is proud to be at the forefront of the Let’s Feed Brum campaign but we need others to join us on this journey. Being a restaurant owner, I know the extent of food waste in this city: my question is why are we throwing this food away when it could be used to feed someone that needs it? I want to challenge my fellow Brummie restaurants to step up to the plate and help us to help others. Itihaas will be taking one day a week but that leaves six more: who else will hit the streets with us?”

Birmingham’s homeless population greatly outnumbers that of the rest of the country. Aside from London, Birmingham has the largest number of homeless people with the Department for Communities and Local Government’s statistics showing that in June 2016 there were 1,152 cases. To put this in context, the city with the next largest homeless population is Manchester with 665 people. Whilst a majority of these cases will eventually be housed by the council, there are still hundreds who have no other options besides hostels, squatting, or rough sleeping.

Ben Rafiqi, the founder of the charity Inspiration Support, is particularly pleased to be working with Itihaas on this project and knows the impact that Let’s Feed Brum can have for people in these unfortunate circumstances.

“Let’s Feed Brum is exactly what Birmingham has been waiting for and I am so excited to be part of the movement. Five years ago I went out one night with a flask of coffee and a friend; since then we’ve grown into a network of committed volunteers that provide sandwiches, hot drinks, essential supplies and friendship to those living on our streets. However, there is still a long way to go and I sincerely hope that Let’s Feed Brum can make this happen,” Ben said.

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