5 initiatives using food to support Syrian refugees

Since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, more than half of the country’s 21 million strong population has been displaced. Around 5 million of these people are living as refugees outside of Syria. While the civil war and the refugee ‘crisis’ have been met with feelings of hopelessness and despair around the world, a number of positive stories have emerged of Syrians sharing their rich culture and beautiful food with their new communities.

These five food-focused initiatives emerged to support victims of the Syrian conflict by fundraising for medical care and education, creating economic empowerment for refugees and facilitating integration into their host communities. The initiatives set a powerful example for how we can use something as simple and universal as food to make a positive difference in the face of humanitarian catastrophe.

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  1. Newcomer Kitchen, Toronto

Newcomer Kitchen is a project run by Toronto food venue, the Depanneur, which invites groups of Syrian refugee women to use their kitchen to cook traditional Syrian dishes in a fun, social setting. Meals are prepared and packaged, and then sold online for pickup or delivery to pay for all the ingredients and provide an honorarium for the cooks.

Newcomer Kitchen also runs a weekly popup and offers “Guest Cook” spots on Wednesdays where you can help & hang out in the kitchen, learn the recipes and join the ladies for a family meal.

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  1. #CookForSYRIA

#CookForSYRIA is a global fundraising initiative curated by Clerkenwell Boy and SUITCASE Magazine, in partnership with UNICEF, to provide humanitarian aid to children affected by the Syrian crisis. #CookForSYRIA started as a simple supper club, where a group of foodie friends came together to celebrate Syrian cuisine and raise money for UNICEF’s work with Syrian children. It’s now a global movement, inviting everybody to the table. From cookbooks to supper clubs, #CookForSYRIA is raising vital funds Syrian children with support from the world’s top chefs, restaurants and volunteers.

Click here to buy the #CookForSYRIA and #BakeForSYRIA cookbooks – 100% of the profits go to UNICEF.

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  1. Free to Feed, Melbourne

Free to Feed is a not-for-profit social enterprise that champions the unique skills and individual stories of refugees and asylum seekers. Free to Feed runs various food-oriented initiatives such as cooking classes and home experiences. Their initiatives nurture entrepreneurialism, develop skills and provide refugees with an avenue for economic empowerment, all the while highlighting what refugees can offer as new members of a community.

 “What better place to celebrate traditions and memories, stories and new experiences than over a feasting table? After all, for every one of us, these things are so often inextricably linked to sharing food and cooking with friends and family.”

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  1. Syrian Supper Club, London

The Syrian Supper Club came to life in July 2012; three friends, all sharing a profound sense of sadness at the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Syria, decided to do something to remind their friends in Syria that they had not been forgotten. With some sharp thinking and good noses for food Johnnie, Louisa and Rose held a Syrian inspired feast at their kitchen table to raise some money and the Syrian Supper Club was born.

The organisation now runs Syrian suppers across London and Bristol and supports individuals to hold their own supper clubs all over the world. The funds they raise go to the Hands Up Foundation, which supports schools and hospitals inside Syria and on the Turkish border, delivering essential medical care and education to Syrians affected by the conflict.

Pink Jinn collaborated with local restaurant, Bath and Bottle, to host a Syrian Supper Club on the Isle of Man earlier this year. Our guests experienced 4 courses of delicious Middle Eastern food and we raised almost £2,000 for the Hands Up Foundation! Find out how you can organise your own Syrian Supper Club here.

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  1. Options FoodLab, Athens

Options FoodLab was born out of necessity as a mental health and wellbeing project for refugees in Greece. After a series of meetings with Babel, a day centre for refugees and migrants, Options FoodLab began running food based events in Athens to allow refugees to earn some extra money, while also supporting the integration process. Their work includes organising cooking workshops, popup kitchens and catering for events.

While the programme was initially designed for refugees, it soon became unclear who the real beneficiaries were, as everybody involved was gaining new skills, enjoying delicious food and learning about other cultures.



Do you have refugees or asylum seekers living in your community?

Why not find out if any similar initiatives exist where you live or, if not, create your own!? It could literally change someone’s life – while also exposing you to some amazing new culinary experiences… Let these 5 initiatives be your inspiration!


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