Over February and March Katie, our Cooking Club Leader, has been running a Cooking Club at our Blakelaw Hub as part of her Career Development Module at Newcastle University. Katie was able to run the club after raising £365 with the Newcastle University Yoga Society who have been sponsoring us this year (see previous blog for more information on the event > https://www.s4a.org.uk/yoga-with-a-view/) and gaining funds from vInspired.
Here is what she had to say . . .
‘Cooking and healthy eating has been a great passion of mine since I went to cooking school after sixth form and worked for a skiing holiday company, cooking for guests during the winter in France. Since then I have become interested in health and nutrition and spend a lot of time making my meals from scratch, cooking dinners for friends and family and in general reading a lot of recipe books and food blogs.
During the Learning Hub sessions at Blakelaw, I instinctively asked the students about what they had for dinner and what their favourite foods are? I soon realised that there was a huge lack of enthusiasm for food and knowledge about nutrition, in addition to a lack of fresh, homemade meals. The reason I wanted to run the Cooking Club was to address these issues, inspire a love for cooking and reduce the fizzy drinks, sweets, crisps and chips I witnessed them eating before the Learning Hub. Not only would cooking lessons teach them invaluable life skills, but a growing field of research suggests that a healthy lifestyle, including a good diet and regular exercise, can have the following effects:
- Improved behaviour in children in the classroom; less disruptive, better levels of concentration, which in turn leads to better grades.
- Boosts energy levels.
- Improves mental health; preventing and helping fight depression
- Reduces the risk of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, strokes and obesity (which lead to diabetes and asthma.)
My theory is that if I teach 20 children in the community how to cook, and they teach three others, either parents, siblings or friends, that means 80 people have learnt how to cook and bake, and if they teach 3 people what they have learnt, that covers the whole of the Blakelaw population. Optimistic but not impossible.
In order to fund the Club I applied for a grant from vInspired cashpoint who give up to £500 to young people who want to set up a project in their community. I also organised a yoga event at the Baltic Centre of Art to raise money and awareness for Success4All. Once the funds were raised I took a food hygiene qualification to comply with health and safety regulations. My past experience in catering meant that I was able to create the lesson plans and teach the students myself.
The Club ran twice a week for 6 weeks, with 5 students per class and 2 extra volunteers. We were able to make a main course and dessert per session, which we sat and ate together. Initially the thought of running the Club was nerve racking and slightly stressful, but every single class was unbelievably fun, especially when the radio played chart songs and everyone danced while cooking and washing up. The reason for setting up the Club was to inspire a love for making and creating in the kitchen to encourage healthier lifestyles, because I believe that this is fundamentally important to a child’s education and should be part of the school curriculum.
What I didn’t expect was to enjoy the process myself as much as I did. Success4All’s motto about learning from each other is so true. I have gained a humongous amount of enjoyment, enrichment, satisfaction and invaluable experience from running the Club. I just wish I didn’t have a dissertation to write so I could do it every week. I hope in the future there will be more volunteers with an interest in cooking who will do more lessons with them because they enjoyed it more than I could have imagined, and to really make a difference to their food education and keep cooking skills alive, there needs to be more opportunities for them to get in the kitchen.’
The Clubs that we run every year are dependent on the skills and interests of the volunteers who join us. Thank you Katie for bringing the enjoyment of healthy cooking and eating to Success4All, we hope to have someone to continue the passion next year!