Former homeless woman launches south London food delivery service

A charity worker who was once homeless is helping vulnerable people across south London access free home cooked meals with a food delivery service.  

Jojo Sureh, 31, from Streatham Hill, set up the catering service ‘Cook to Care’ in May to provide food for her local neighbourhood. 

While on furlough from the charity sector, Sureh self-funded Cook to Care and used her kitchen as a base to prepare meals for home delivery. 

Once homeless as a child, Sureh was living in bedsits with up to ten people and her mother.

She said: “Before my mum and I became homeless, I had a very privileged upbringing.”

Sureh’s dual heritage of a Greek and Iranian background inspired her passion for food and she described it as a fundamental value.  

Cook to Care service users will receive enough meals for a working week, with food portions made of rice, curry and a salad.  

A pot showing a typical dish made in the Cook to Care kitchen
READY TO GO: A typical dish made in the Cook to Care kitchen. Credit: Sofia Farnessi

The food produce is donated by two food charities and the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Nectarios in Wandsworth.

Cook to Care’s circulation started with word-of-mouth, and advertising in local shops.

The food service now averages more than 1,000 meals a week with assistance from 35 volunteers.

Sureh soon received a number of emails asking for help and she explained that she felt undignified and embarrassed that users felt the need to justify why they need the service. 

An official website for the food service is currently in development. 

Cook to Care delivery bags handwritten 'Made with Love'
MADE WITH LOVE: Cook to Care delivers a personal touch. Credit: Sofia Farnessi

All meals are now made at The Marcus Lipton Youth Centre in Brixton and distributed by organisations such as the Lambeth Mutual Aid Group.  

At the start of Cook to Care’s launch, Sureh delivered meals across Croydon, Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark and Wandsworth by foot or taxi, with some journeys taking up to four hours at a time. 

Sureh enjoys leading community driven projects that engage younger and older generations and highlight the importance of food.  

Cook to Care collaborated with Humanitarian Landscape Collectives, a group of landscape architects who restore barren spaces in London and use them for food growth. 

Volunteers grow food produce in spaces that would be neglected
REVIVING GREENERY: Volunteers grow food produce in spaces that would otherwise be neglected. Credit: Humanitarian Landscape Collectives

She said: “The idea is to revive as many areas as possible that would otherwise be underutilised.”

Sureh believes reviving greenery can help create safe spaces for gang affiliated youths involved with postcode wars. 

Since May 10 this year, Cook to Care’s GoFundMe page has received almost £4,000 donations.  

On the success of donations, Sureh explained: “I’m just a normal person and this is what I’m doing.

“I’m not seeking to make more people hungry so that I can deliver more meals to people.”

Sureh believes serving meals will not solve food poverty in England, but questions how to prevent it.

She said: “Covid-19 has shown it can happen to any of us.

“There is a lot of fixing to do.”

Donate to Cook to Care’s fundraising effort:

Featured image credit: Jojo Sureh, Cook to Care

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