Photography by Henry J Kamara.
The day has finally come! After much anticipation, Joy’s Health Sanctuary has moved from her small shop on Rushey Green to a bigger dining space in Catford’s Shopping centre. If you don’t already know of Joy, she is Catford’s go-to for fresh juices, health foods, plant-based meals and professional nutritional advice. What was once a juice bar in Elephant & Castle’s market, moved to Catford in February 2017 and continues to grow towards Joy’s dream of “a café with the wow-factor.”
For a long time, Catford has had a limited number of dining options, especially for those with meat-free or vegan diets. This is changing, however, with the opening of Fayrooz in 2017, Fourteen87 in 2018, the monthly Catford Food Market and now the expansion of Joy’s Health Sanctuary.
Joy is at the intersection of two significant features of Catford’s population; the Caribbean community and the number of independent businesses which serve the area. As plant-based diets are increasingly prevalent in today’s society, with supermarkets offering a wider range of animal-product-free options and Greggs’ vegan sausage rolls becoming all the craze, Catford’s offering of homemade plant-based food is refreshing.
There have often been issues of accessibility and economic privilege within the conversations around veganism. In an article by The Vegan Society, Professor Corey Wrenn writes, “Veganism tends to be perceived as a ‘white thing.’ It’s something for the well-to-do. Elitist even. If this is the case, this could have serious implications for effectiveness in vegan outreach efforts.”
“Dr. Breeze Harper of the Sistah Vegan Project argues that ethical eating is unjustly bound to class and race privilege,” he continues. Similarly, Hannah Ewens wrote an article for Vice about the The Problem with the UK’s New ‘Big Vegan’ Industry; “A fair criticism of the recent veganism boom is that it has mostly catered to the middle classes.”
Mainstream veganism fails to acknowledge the Rastafarians whose diet is and has always been “Ital”, in other words plant-based. It fails to represent the affordable and wholesome plant-based lifestyles of people from African and Caribbean countries. It fails to empower those from marginalised or underprivileged communities, with the information and the resources needed to incorporate “conscious eating” into their everyday lifestyles.
Professor Wrenn also adds, “some concrete ways to improve vegan outreach include choosing language and concepts that are appropriate for the audience in mind […] The key to effective and inclusive advocacy, I believe, is to remain sensitive to a diversity of experiences. When leaflets are written, talks are given, and campaigns are designed, consider the cultural background of those who will be interpreting it.”
There are many people who have taken to Instagram and YouTube to creatively advocate for ethical eating and holistic health, as well as entrepreneurs in Afro-Caribbean communities. In Catford, we have community leaders like Joy, as well as Howard of The Nubian Store who hosts “health meetings” and sells books on Afro-veganism. They both have great deal of knowledge and willingly offer their services to people who wish to learn more. Joy’s daughter, Katrina, is also a qualified nutritionist, available in the cafe every Thursday.
“Your health is your wealth. I love working out, I exercise every other morning religiously. I wouldn’t say everything I eat is 100% healthy, you have to be naughty sometimes. It’s good to look after your health. I want to be here for my children, and my grandchildren,” Joy tells us. This message is poignant because, for many people the stress of balancing full time jobs with taking care of our families, leaves little time to pause and make conscious preventative health decisions.
The word “sanctuary” is befitting for a family who welcome you with smiles every time you enter the cafe. The key is longevity and sustainability for our communities.
Look out for the second annual Catford Vegan Festival, taking place on July 14th, supported by Team Catford. The festival was born as a result of shoppers and traders at the monthly Catford Food Market, asking for increased vegan offerings. “Most Caribbean recipes are vegetarian or vegan without trying to be, that’s just how we cook it anyway… you’re definitely able to be vegan or vegetarian on a normal budget,” says Aaliyah, a young Catford Food Market visitor.
This is the beginning of an exciting time for Catford Town Centre. The more people involved, the better the needs of the whole community will be reflected. Have your say via Commonplace, and share the project with people you know locally.