Alumnus James Reid is using his passion for food to create positive change around mental health. Through his social Enterprise, Fink Street Food, he is on a mission to drive meaningful conversations around mental health and break down mental health stigma, one bite at a time.
What is Fink Street Food all about?
Fink is a social enterprise street food and events and caterer, which aims to blow the mental health conversation wide open and transform the majority of our profits into mental health support for young people in need. We travel the country in our food truck, The Fink Tank, to raise awareness and show our customers that no one is alone in dealing with their mental health.
How is Fink helping break down the barriers around mental health?
The idea of Fink is to use the shared experience of enjoying food to encourage conversations around mental health. We want to show people that they’re not alone in dealing with their mental health. We want to encourage people to talk about mental health in an approachable way; our food truck is covered in mental health messaging, and we’re sharing guides where we’re talking to people about mental health.
Supporting young people’s mental health is really important to us. 50% of our profits go towards funding youth mental health initiatives. We’re partnered with a charity called #5 Young People, who provide free mental health counselling services to young people aged 6 to 18. The charity is filling an important gap in providing these services – there’s an 18 week waiting list for NHS mental health service providers, and some people that we speak to have been waiting two years just to have an appointment for their child to see a mental health specialist. To date, Fink has funded over 600 sessions for the charity, helping some 50 young people get the support that they would otherwise still be waiting for.
We’re also committed to community outreach. We deliver cooking workshops for young care leavers to teach them about the links between mental health, diet, and healthy eating. We regularly run cooking classes in local primary schools, focusing on boosting children’s self-esteem, confidence, and skill levels. We have also provided over 10,000 meals for homeless charities since we launched in 2019, highlighting our commitment to making a positive impact in the local community.
How did you get started?
I’ve been working in kitchens since I was 14. After university, I joined a graduate scheme working within private school catering operations and then in business development. This gave me a really good understanding of the catering world and how to run an efficient operation, but also the opportunity for social enterprises in the sector, especially with clients more and more aware of purchasing and the importance of ethical supply chains. It’s also where I met my co-founder, Lewis.
How did your time at Southampton help you in your journey?
When I was at University, I ran a community kitchen project in halls. We ran a few events, where we set up a food donation point with music and drinks, where people could bring food for distribution to local homeless shelters. My time at Southampton taught me lots of important skills – the ability to think critically, work in teams, develop my leadership style. It has definitely had a positive impact on my ability to run a successful business.
What is your favourite thing on the Fink menu?
We do really nice lamb merguez sausage, which is like a North African spice lamb sausage, served in wraps with lots of chilli sauce.
What’s next for Fink Street Food?
We’re at that stage now where we’ve got one food truck and it’s sort of maxed out. So we’re starting to look to the next stage and how we can start to expand and are considering launching more trucks under a new franchise network.. In addition to our food truck, we run pop up food trucks for events, weddings and corporate clients; this is a real growth area for us in the near future and an exciting opportunity to grow our community impact even more.
Fink Street Food was the winner of the ‘One to Watch’ Award at the 2021 Social Enterprise Awards.
James and the Fink Tank regularly attend markets and events across Berkshire and London. They were also named in this year’s Start Up 100 list of businesses. To find out more, visit their website: www.eatfinktalk.com