For James and Lewis, food and mental health are inextricably linked. The social aspect of food and dining was one of the draws of street food for the pair; especially as the profits from the company help young people get access to talking therapies.
With long NHS waiting lists in their native Berkshire, and as a result of their own personal experiences, James and Lewis saw firsthand the need for an initiative like FINK. Having worked in catering for many years, they became all too familiar with seeing friends and colleagues suffer with work-imposed stress, some of whom tragically lost their lives to poor mental health.
The duo has gone above and beyond to help the vulnerable in their local community, and it was our pleasure to sit down and have a chat with them about what motivates them, and to hear about some of the amazing initiatives they have spearheaded.
Thank you both so much for taking the time to talk with us. Can you tell us firstly what motivated you to set up the business?
FINK: We had both worked in hospitality for many years and saw firsthand the toll it took on some of our colleagues’ mental health. That combined with difficulty accessing mental health services in our community, inspired us to set up FINK. We use the power of food and the social, laid-back setting of street food to get people talking about their mental health.
How do you encourage your customers to talk, or to get thinking about the importance of good mental health?
FINK: We have QR codes spread out on the front of our unit which people can scan for free access to resources, for one. We’ve also found that, especially on quieter days, people are open to talking about their mental health.
That’s so good to hear. Can you tell us what kind of initiatives FINK has been able to support so far?
FINK: We have worked with No5 who provide free one-to-one counselling for young people, we also recently provided 8,000 meals for homeless charities in Newbury and Berkshire. When Covid first hit and we turned to doing deliveries, for every mezze box we sold, we made a donation to a homeless soup kitchen.
What an incredible thing to do. Can you tell us more about your incredible food?
FINK: Our food is primarily middle eastern fusion – we do shawarma, mezze boxes, that sort of thing. We know that eating healthy, nutritious food can have a positive impact on our mental health, so we keep that in mind when we’re creating menus or dishes.
We know that you trade at markets, have you ever traded at festivals, and if so, how was your experience of that?
FINK: Yes, we traded at Great Barn Festival in Oxford, and it was wonderful to work with organisers who were likeminded with their values. We tend to trade at smaller events and often ask the organiser if they will approve a donation to a mental health charity in lieu of a pitch fee.
Wow, what a good idea. You’ve come a long way in such a short space of time. What are your visions for FINK in the future?
FINK: We’d love to be involved in setting up other ethical food businesses, maybe doing consulting work for likeminded food businesses. We’d also to have a fleet of food trucks which we could use to provide work opportunities for homeless people, to help develop their confidence.
What has been the most helpful aspect of NCASS Membership for you guys?
FINK: It’s just this portal of important information, it’s helped us so much. We love connecting with other NCASS members, and the training and the risk assessments have been indispensable.
And finally, what would be your advice to people who’d love to get into the industry but don’t know where to start?
FINK: Never be afraid to ask for help and support. Also, have a good reason for doing what you’re doing. The fact that we’re a social enterprise and what we do has the power to benefit others, keeps us going. Make sure you do your research too, there are a lot of businesses out here. Make sure your product is top quality, and that you’ve done your homework.
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