London charity PL84U Al-Suffa aim to tackle food poverty and isolation

4 April 2022

Founded in 2013, PL84U Al-Suffa, a Waltham Forest based charity, provides support for their local community; bringing together diverse communities facing hardship.  

“The name PL84U stands for ‘Plate For You’, because that’s what we are providing for our guests. Al-Suffa means ‘Varandah’ a place where our Prophet (pbuh) cared for travellers and provided for their health and wellbeing” said Saira Begum Mir BEM, BCAc founder of the charity.  

The organisation endeavours to provide a one-stop-shop that offers all the services necessary for someone in need. All members from the local community are welcomed, there is no judgement or discrimination for those using the free services.  

“We are a cross-community interfaith initiative providing hot meals, companionship, a food and clothing bank, pampering sessions for the elderly, help for those experiencing homelessness, and assistance to all people in need” said Saira. 

Providing people with wrap around care 

By partnering up with institutions relevant to service users’ needs, such as the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, PL84U acts as a safety net for local people facing hard times. “In 2013, we found there was a lot of need, lots of community groups facing food poverty, including those experiencing homelessness or the elderly – this has since continued. Our job is to eradicate stereotypical views of these community groups by conversing whilst sharing a meal” said Saira. 

Through the foodbank sessions, the organisation invites members of the community in and matches their needs. “We serve a diverse community and get to know people as they sign in before they shop. All items are free and they have access to ambient and fresh produce as well as bakery items, dairy, meat and treats”. The charity provides many options for different dietary requirements from kosher, vegan and halal and has an aisle-based system which gives people the freedom to choose what they’d like.  

“We have a walk-in system, where nobody is turned away and also a referral system which supports bigger families with a weekly parcel.” PL84U collects food from the local Tesco store through FareShare GO and receives food from FareShare’s London delivery partner The Felix Project. The charity is also supported by their local council London Borough of Waltham Forest. 

Connecting with the local community through food 

With help from FareShare, the London Borough of Waltham Forest and local food suppliers, PL84U Al-Suffa is able to assist families in need. “Food is very important, it brings everyone together – sharing a meal, it helps us get to know each other” says Saira. The food received is utilised throughout the year and supports those fasting during Ramadan.  

“Food is used to celebrate. During Ramadan we source different foods such as dates and milkshakes at the beginning of the fast and have food for celebration once Eid arrives. We also deliver food parcels to those who are vulnerable and isolating.” 

Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020 the charity paused regular activities to focus on the foodbank. “The pandemic has been a difficult time, but it has also opened the door to things that weren’t possible before, neighbours now take care of each other, charities are working together. We network with other organisations to signpost service users, we’re not just a foodbank. We’ve had families and children queueing up for the foodbank and have worked with such organisations as The Barbican and London City University.” 

In the future, Saira and her team hope to continue to support their local community and source a permanent base for the organisation. “It’s a hard time, but we’re lucky we exist and are happy we’re able to help people. I don’t know what would happen otherwise. There’s always room to grow, we’ll continue to be led by the community’s needs and there’s scope to do some fantastic work in the local area”.