Barrington Stoke has acquired The Great (Food) Bank Heist, a "heartfelt adventure" from Onjali Q Raúf that will offer a child’s perspective on the rapidly increasing problem of food poverty in the UK.
Ailsa Bathgate, editorial director, acquired UK and Commonwealth English language rights, excluding Canada, from Silvia Molteni of Peters Fraser & Dunlop. The Great (Food) Bank Heist will be published on 1st July 2021 with black and white illustrations by Elisa Paganelli.
The synopsis for the middle-grade title reads: "When Mum’s money runs out at the end of the month, Nelson, Ashley and Mum have to head out to the bank. But not just any old bank – the food bank. With its shining tins and packets of food stacked from floor to ceiling, Nelson thinks it’s the best kind of bank there is. But it seems there’s a thief in town, and the shelves of the food bank are getting emptier and emptier each week, leaving people hungrier than ever. For the sake of his family and everyone else’s, Nelson decides that he needs to put a stop to the problem of the disappearing food. But can he and his friends solve the mystery and catch the bank robber?"
Raúf will be gifting a portion of all royalties earned from the title to a number of Breakfast Club initiatives including Magic Breakfast, the Greggs Foundation, and selected Trussell Trust food banks.
Bathgate said: "I defy anyone not to be inspired by Onjali Q Raúf, a writer with a huge heart, who sees clearly the many problems facing our society and, instead of despairing, gets to work to make a difference. Having already tackled such difficult topics as the refugee crisis, domestic violence and homelessness, Onjali now uses her unique voice to shine a spotlight on food poverty. Her skill lies in her ability to make this pervasive issue accessible to children in a way that encourages discussion, understanding and, most importantly, empathy. I am extremely proud to bring her wonderful writing to our readers and hope that she continues to act as a catalyst for change."
Raúf commented: "For the first nine years of my life, growing up on a council estate translated into being known for two things at school: having to have free school meals, and always being first in line for ‘Milk Break’! Food – wanting, dreaming and wishing for more of it – was a part of my world, and all my friends’ worlds too. It was our norm. But whilst I recall moments of hunger, despite my parents working day and night to have it be otherwise, I was lucky enough to never feel as if I was starving. Not on the level so many of our children are experiencing right now, in this, the 2020s.
"I find it utterly bewildering and deeply upsetting that we have a society in which millions of people across the UK – including hundreds of thousands of children – are worrying daily about where their next meal might or might not be coming from, and having to rely on food banks and food drives to keep their worlds turning. These are not facts that should be accepted as a norm by any of us. Especially not while we continue to throw away over two million tons of food each year in an age of over-production and abundance. It’s only thanks to the revolutionary campaigns and work of visible s/heroes such as Marcus Rashford, Jack Monroe and Emma Thompson, backed by an army of invisible hearts beating daily for our food banks, homeless charities and school Breakfast Clubs, some of whom I have come to know and love personally, that the idea for The Great (Food) Bank Heist came into existence at all. I am so deeply grateful to Barrington Stoke for gifting me the space and seeds to produce this story. I hope it will open more eyes to the unacceptable realities of so many of our children, and let those children know they are not alone in their hunger for a fairer, more fulfilling world."
Raúf's debut, The Boy at the Back of the Class (Orion Children's Books, 2018), won the Blue Peter Book Award in 2019. She is also the author of The Night Bus Hero (Orion Children's Books, 2020).