From the Streets to Street Food
It’s fascinating to see what a simple change in perception does for someone’s confidence. A person asking for money on the streets is often ignored. We see them but feel powerless to help. We feel troubled by this suffering, but we don’t feel entirely comfortable intervening. Such sights are sadly the norm when you walk through any city centre, especially Manchester city centre. We have become desensitised to it.
You know what else is the norm in cities these days? Market Stalls.
Take that same person, put them under a marquee, give them a uniform, and suddenly you feel more comfortable, more accustomed to approach them, exchange kind words and perhaps give money for whatever goods they are selling. It’s the same person, same location, just a different perception.
Obviously, it’s not as simple as that. The transition time between someone being homeless, released from prison, or overcoming addiction, and then being able to work on a market stall can take months, even years.
But when they are ready, 4Lunch makes a conscious effort to offer them opportunities. We are a social enterprise that works closely with our partner charity, Back on Track, to offer meaningful and relevant placements to new students.
Street Food Stories
Our aim is to build skills and confidence in an encouraging environment. Most people that join us have never worked in street food before. We run through the setting up of the stall from beginning to end, training them in food preparation, cash-handling and customer service. It is our job to help them find their flow, to feel proud of themselves for trying something new, and to give them the feeling of ‘I can do this’ and ‘I am more capable than I think’.
Of course, it’s not always plain sailing. Markets are hard. Markets are intense. Service might slow down as we repeat instructions for the fourth time to a trainee. Food might be undercooked, overcooked, or even burnt to a crisp. In the rush, change might be given out incorrectly. Trainees might start to feel overwhelmed or panicked.
So why do any of this?
It is a question to ask after more than five years since we started this project.
We do this because of the sense of achievement trainees feel after a day’s hard work. It is even more special when we sell out completely. Our trainees say the placements keep them busy, out of trouble, motivated to work and hopeful for the future. What more can you ask for?
“I am able to handle situations better, whereas I might have kicked off before. I am much more confident. There is a lot more to achieve, but I feel like I can overcome these challenges.”
Jason, who completed 8 street food market stall work experience days.
For us, this is what social entrepreneurship is all about. Using the market (in this case, an actual, physical market!) to change perceptions and to tackle the most deep-rooted issues in our society.