Former homeless lady begins up grocery supply in south London


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

31-year-old Jojo Sureh from Streatham Hill set up the “Cook to Care” catering service in May to provide groceries for her neighborhood.

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

Homeless as a child, Sureh lived in beds with up to ten people and their mother.

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

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

Cook-to-care service users receive enough meals with food portions of rice, curry and salad for one working week.

READY TO GO: A typical dish prepared in the Cook to Care kitchen. Photo credit: Sofia Farnessi

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

Cook to Care’s circulation began with word of mouth and advertising in local stores.

The food service now includes an average of more than 1,000 meals per week with the support of 35 volunteers.

Sureh soon received a series of emails asking for help, stating that she felt unworthy and embarrassed, that users felt the need to justify why they needed the service.

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

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

All meals are now prepared at the Marcus Lipton Youth Center in Brixton and distributed by organizations such as the Lambeth Mutual Aid Group.

At the beginning of Cook to Care’s launch, Sureh delivered meals on foot or by taxi via Croydon, Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark and Wandsworth, with some trips taking up to four hours.

Sureh enjoys leading community-run projects that involve younger and older generations and highlight the importance of food.

Cook to Care worked with Humanitarian Landscape Collectives, a group of landscape architects who restore sparse spaces in London and use them to grow food.

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

She said, “The idea is to revitalize as many areas as possible that would otherwise be underutilized.”

Sureh believes that revitalizing the green can help create safe spaces for teenagers involved in zip code wars.

As of May 10th this year, Cook to Care’s GoFundMe page has donated nearly £ 4,000.

Commenting on the success of donations, Sureh said, “I’m just a normal person and that’s what I do.

“I don’t want to starve more people so I can deliver more meals to people.”

Sureh believes that serving meals will not solve food poverty in England, but questions how can it be prevented.

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

“There is much to do.”

Donate to the Cook to Care fundraiser:

Selected image source: Jojo Sureh, Cook to Care