Welcome to Solly's World
Each week (even through these unprecedented weeks) your veg is delivered, you collect and take it home for nutritious meals, rinse, repeat. A bag of vegetables sustains you for a few days, but Local Greens aims to do more than that. Your bags of veg also sustain local communities. During this crisis, we've seen the ripple effects of our interactions - and lack there of - on every facet of society. We'd like to introduce our customers to who you support by supporting Local Greens. Our first story comes from the heart of Brixton and true a community campaigner.
You know Brixton: chicken shops, the Market, Pop, Electric Avenue and the continuous pandemonium outside the tube, but do you know Brixton? Solomon “Solly” Smith is Brixton born and bred, and deserves a lot more recognition than the latest headliner at The Academy. Solomon knows the Brixton of his youth, growing up on the Somerleyton Estate, witnessing what people had to do to survive, and the true effects of food poverty. Local video producer, Darren at Dardest TV, sat down with Solly for a Real Talk that doesn’t sugarcoat his upbringing or the realities of Brixton today. Don’t rush to judge Solly by how he looks or where he’s from. He is the founder of the Brixton Soup Kitchen and a driving force for compassion and aid to London’s homeless community.
Local Greens regularly donates surplus produce to the BSK. By supporting Local Greens, you also support Solly and his outstanding work. As he shared with Darren in their interview, "Our work is 24/7, not just at Christmas. Homelessness is all the time.”
Solly readily admits the Brixton of his childhood was rough. He has a twin brother, and they were fortunate to grow up with both parents present. Other friends weren’t, and skirting the law was how food was put on the table. At school, he stood against bullies and overcame dyslexia to win a place at uni. A placement as a local government youth worker galvanized his commitment to alleviating homelessness. Solomon left paid work to start BSK in 2013.
Although never forced to sleep rough himself, Solomon put himself in the shoes of those he supports. He undertook a sleeping rough challenge, and went to Brighton over a winter weekend, out of his comfort zone and far enough from his own bed and friends to be able to turn back. He begged in the street, asked shops for food that had gone off, and snuck into cinemas to get warm and sleep. From other rough sleepers, he found a local center similar to BSK and was so thankful it existed. Yet, Solly still knew he had a home to go to and get out of the cold, unlike others in his company.
Normally, Solly's doors are open to all. As a fully registered charity, the kitchen receives no government funding and relies solely on donations. No one is paid for their work either; they are all volunteers. Through dedication, they supply hot meals, food packs, clothing, sleeping bags, legal advice and employment tools to the disenfranchised. BSK’s work has been noticed by big names too. Nandos has been there “from day one,” according to Solly, as well as Greggs, fellow Brixton local Honest Burger, and many stalls from the Market. They run toy drives in partnership with Argos and Sainsbury’s, and were named 2016 Charity of the Year by M&S. BSK was featured on BB3’s Amazing Humans back in 2017, and Solly made an impromptu appearance on the news in Canada. While traveling to Miami, he missed a connecting flight and had to stay the night in Toronto. Where most people would be annoyed by the delay, Solly went out to the streets giving out food packs and hot tea, and caught the eye of a local news crew. Solomon is truly an amazing human.
Coronavirus has forced BSK to close, but Solly’s work continues. When lockdown orders came, he realized, “this sh*t is really happening.” Many restaurants donated their dead stock and what was left in the kitchens, but his cupboards are now bare. He has received verbal abuse because BSK can’t operate as it used to. Solly still receives urgent texts for help and is going to corner shops to make food packs for others. He is picking up donations and delivering food despite lockdown. Solomon worries what people will have to do to survive the pandemic.
Solly has a strong vision for the future. He wants BSK to be “everyone’s chosen charity,” and to be everywhere the homeless need help. At the moment, he will take any donations he can. Once this crisis passes, he’d love to put on fundraisers to be able to pay his staff, expand his work in Miami, Toronto, and open a kitchen in Tanzania. He has the simple goal to eradicate homelessness, and calls for “togetherness, not loneliness,” in all times.
Now you know Solomon, and maybe a different side of Brixton. He is your neighbor that you support and make positive change in our community. If you have two minutes, watch BBC3’s clip on Solomon and the BSK. If you have more time, check out his full interview with Dardest TV.