A queue to nowhere formed down Houghton Street at midday last Monday. With the unexpected move of the Hare Krishna food stall to a position adjacent to Waterstone’s on Clare Market, regulars were left confused, disorientated and hungry.
The move has been instigated by LSE Environmental Services, who have argued that Houghton Street has become too congested during weekdays. Due to the move not being publicised, however, some students took until Friday to realise that the stall had changed place.
The LSE’s obligation, explained Victoria Hands of Environmental Services, to keep the way of access clear as a public highway, was becoming difficult with a cash point, Barclays bikes, Wright’s Bar, and Hare Krishna competing for space. An email was sent to the Food for Life organisation on Saturday, calling for a “trial period,” in order to test it out. Ragik, who has distributed food at the LSE for three years, has expressed concern at the move. “My priority is to feed as many people as possible,” he said, adding “and this street seems a lot quieter.” Ragik, who ran a similar stall at SOAS in the three years prior to his arrival on Houghton Street, did however say that there had appeared to be “more demand for food” than in previous terms.
The stall’s patrons have not been wholly convinced by the move. David, a third-year economics undergraduate said, “It just feels really strange,” while student Claudia Feather praised the move as “finally giving enough room to Wright’s Bar.”
The Hare Krishna Food for Life Scheme has been operating since 1974, and is the world’s largest vegetarian and vegan food distribution programme. The UK operation is run from a farm in Watford attached to a temple belonging to the Hare Krishna movement. The premises, which is named Bhaktivedanta Manor, was donated to the movement by George Harrison in 1973.
Ragik has faced difficulty in the past from various parties on his food distributing mission, explaining, “Some people really just don’t like what I do.” In February this year, Health and Safety officials repeatedly visited the stall, in spite of him holding all required health and safety certificates. There has also been friction with a café close to the SOAS campus, which ultimately led to SOAS security staff asking the stall to move. Moreover, Ragik claims he was told by the Houghton Street Natwest Branch Manager to move last year as he reflected badly upon the bank. Additionally, Ragik has faced accusations from Wright’s Bar employees, one of whom has claimed that he “was ruining their business.”
When asked, Victoria Hands of LSE Environmental Services described the initiative as a “fantastic organisation,” and said that special bins will soon be provided for the biodegradable plates and spoons used by the stall.