The young women fighting food poverty with dignity

The additional funding is much appreciated and will allow us to alleviate food hunger in our community.

Teen Action is a predominantly women-led organisation supporting the orthodox Jewish community. They have been operating at a grassroots level in Hackney and Haringey for almost two decades, supporting young Orthodox Jewish women and school leavers into employment by helping them to develop skills at this transitional period in their lives.

Teen Action have always worked to address community-specific needs, such as early transitions and adulthood responsibilities (the average age of marriage in the community is 19), plus skills disparities, low employment levels and social exclusion. In the current crisis, however, their work has developed to accommodate the higher cost of living within the Orthodox Jewish community, due to the disproportionate inflation of kosher ingredients coupled with larger family sizes – typically of 6-7 people.

Although food provision is not typically what we do, the pandemic has taught us to be adaptive and responsive to community needs.

Poverty within Hackney and Haringey’s Orthodox Jewish community is high and the majority of the organisation’s service users reside in areas ranking in the lowest third on the index of multiple deprivation (IMD) scale. Food poverty poses a particular cultural problem, due to the exorbitant costs of kosher food, which has risen by as much as 25%, or four times the inflation rate for non-kosher food. Children and young people are particularly impacted, be that by prioritising low-cost carbohydrates and fruit veg at home, saving protein for Jewish holidays and special occasions, or in some schools which can no longer afford to provide kosher school meals, by parents being asked to provide children with packed lunches.

For the young women Teen Action supports, these issues can be compounded by their gender. Women are more likely to be living in poverty, more anxious about being able to pay their bills and 30% more women than men are in temporary work and on zero-hours contracts, worrying about unemployment and unable to make ends meet.

Teen Action supports young women from minority communities, helping them as they transition to employment and independent living; creating better futures. With funding from The London Community Foundation, young women studying towards an NCFE Food and Nutrition qualification at Teen Action, will cook nutritious meals and host community dinners, alleviating food hunger within our community, especially for vulnerable children and young people.

The £10,000 grant Teen Action received through the Together for London programme unites support for poverty, employability and women through their project that is helping to fight food poverty with dignity. Their grant is directly funding the coordination and delivery of 240 free, kosher, upscale community dinners and packaged meals for members of their community over winter. However, the benefits of the project go beyond the immediate and vital need for food, as the meals will be cooked and prepared by their nine budding young women chefs, who are studying towards an accreditation in Food and Nutrition. To put it simply: the project feeds the community, while providing an opportunity for these young women to develop their portfolio of practical/technical work.

The programme will also support young women learners to better budget with regards to ingredients and thrifty menu planning, encouraging them to implement this learning in their homes, thereby relieving their own food poverty.

Through projects like Teen Action’s, our Together for London appeal has provided emergency food, essential items and advice to the Orthodox Jewish community, and particularly young women struggling through the winter. But longer-term support is needed to support them to build a more secure financial future for themselves beyond the current crisis.

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