With his experience in street trading and a desire to support teenagers with help from his family and the community, Leeman Francis developed his Young People’s Food Market scheme back in 2018.
His FSE Young Peoples Food Market – which is free for 11-16-year-olds – gets young people preparing and cooking various cultural foods to sell at Thornton Heath Market, during the school holidays, with the help of staff and volunteers.
Francis said: “I’ve done street trading myself… so that’s where the thought process came in terms of trading, because I know that I could turn my hand to it and in cooperate it as a young business that I know young people could get behind.”
He added: “We’re just hoping to engage more young people to do this, make the markets more visible in Thornton Heath on a regular basis, and just make the public more aware of what’s going on.
“It took some time to get trading spaces that would consider young people because the street trading and market industry had not grown as much in 2014.”
Francis’ 2014 council-funded cooking competition for those aged 11-16, where the winners would receive prizes and cook a three-course meal for the homeless during the Christmas period, prompted his idea to provide young people with qualified work experience by taking part.
He said: “We found it quite difficult at the time to get them just general work experience, because of the safe working practices of organisations and them potentially not having the insurance to cover young people because they are underage – even as volunteers.”
“From that, I noticed that Surrey Street Market does street trading and I thought that this was an idea and we could create our own stall, so that they young people could do work experience through us.”
In order for Francis’ concept to develop, his friends and family assisted in raising awareness about the importance of the project, before it successfully became a community project.
According to Francis, the Young People’s Food Market is even getting participants into the food industry, with one former member keen to become a chef.
Francis said: “She’s looking to go into food tech in Croydon college when she finishes her school years. In terms of the work she’s been doing, it [the project] has helped her and encouraged her to let her school know what she wants to do specifically.
“So it kind of helped put more focus and support in what she wants do specifically…she said she would like to see more people get more involved.”
And he is aware that there is only so much that schools can do. “I’m aware that some people in young schools, and in general, would like to be more hands on and probably prefer to work outside instead of indoors,” he said.
With a focus on promoting and encouraging healthy eating for young people, each market has two stalls, with three young people per stall. One is strictly for vegetables and the other for meat and fish.
Now that they have received £650 from the council, it has enabled the enterprise to invest in a generator and to renew their gas safety certificate. Francis said: “the certificate’s an annual one and the generator has a three-year warrantee, and we expect that to last for some time.”
The FSE project are currently fundraising towards creating a 12-week project, The FSE Cook to Trade Project, where young people would grow food, cook various foods to then sell in a street food trading environment. By completing the 12 weeks, they would gain an additional level 2 safety certificate.
This Easter break, the market will run for two days from 11-3pm – the dates are yet to be confirmed.