April 18, 2018 / 5:29 PM / 10 months ago

Soup-er cooking contest spotlights Britain's homeless

LONDON, April 18 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Soup kitchens have long been a lifeline for homeless people, but now one upmarket British supermarket chain is to raise funds for rough sleepers by selling warming broth in its stores.

Five finalists, from lawyers to farmers, gathered at the Waitrose cookery school on Tuesday with competing recipes for the new soup under the “Big Broth” initiative.

The winning entry, red pepper and chorizo, will be sold in Waitrose stores across Britain from September, with 20 pence (28 cents) from each sale going to the homeless charity Centrepoint.

“It’s important because it’s going to benefit the young and homeless people across the country,” said Abdoulaziz, who was made homeless as a teenager after a family breakdown and helped by Centrepoint. He declined to give his full name.

“When they take home that soup, I want people to feel like they contributed to helping the youth and feel nice,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Government figures show homelessness has risen in England for seven consecutive years, with more than 1,000 people in London and more than 4,100 nationally sleeping on the streets, a 134 percent jump since 2010.

Another 78,000 families live in temporary accommodation as Britain struggles with a housing shortage due to a decline in homebuilding since the 1970s, government data shows.

“We should not be seeing youth homelessness in the 21st century,” said Balbir Kaur Chatrik of Centrepoint, who said government funding cuts and a shortage of hostel beds were worsening the problem.

The more than 200 competition entries were whittled down to five finalists who cooked live for a panel of celebrity judges, among them celebrity chef Aldo Zilli who spent time living on the streets in Germany and who said cooking saved his life.

“I was homeless myself as a youngster, so it’s always going to be in my heart,” he said.

The final tasty product will help to stop young people falling through the cracks, said celebrity broadcaster Sara Cox.

“We try to shop with a conscience, so when people go to buy their soup hopefully they’ll see on the packaging that it’s the winning soup and the money will go to charity,” she said.

"You're having a nice dinner but also you're helping people." (Reporting by Adela Suliman; editing by Claire Cozens and Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)

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