Cooking HubNews

“Does anyone know what these are?”

In 2009, Jamie Oliver surveyed the British government’s provision of food education and found it severely lacking. In response, he set up the Ministry of Food to provide lessons on cooking, nutrition and sustainability in Bradford, Rotherham, Leeds, Newcastle and Stratford, East London. 

Fifteen years later, the Ministry of Food is still going strong, with 74 sites across the UK and 18 more planned for this year, which will deliver Oliver’s mission to reach 40,000 more people from underserved communities. It is now a certified B Corp, recognised for its positive impact on people and the environment.

In Bradford, Oliver’s work continues at The Storehouse, where local organisation Inn Churches supports and empowers people experiencing homelessness, poverty and other forms of marginalisation – including through food provision.

“We reclaim tonnes and tonnes of food on an annual basis,” says welfare manager Soraya Overend, “and we’ve been buying food, which comes from government funding, and distributing it to food banks. We’ve also been visiting some community centres and churches to look at their pantry models and cook whatever they’ve got on display that day.” 

Brontë Schiltz, The Big Issue Issue 1606 (11-17 March 2024), pp14-15

Last month we were delighted to welcome The Big Issue to The Storehouse to see what our cooking team get up to. They’ve written a lovely 2-page story about their visit, which you can read online on the Big Issue website, or in issue 1606 of the magazine.

The Big Issue magazine exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income. To support their work buy a copy! Find your local vendor, subscribe online or purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app.

They also teach Oliver’s recipes and nutritional tips to children, parents and young people. The Big Issue’s visit aligns with a weekly session with post-16 students from High Park School, a specialist institution that supports disabled and neurodiverse children and young people with complex needs. Those in attendance are autistic. Many are non-verbal and struggle with sensory overload and unfamiliar environments – but at The Storehouse, they thrive.

“It’s great, because they can try different things,” says teacher Allison. “They experience different textures and sounds.” She singles out one student. “He only eats rice at school. He came here, and he ended up eating beans on toast, curry, all sorts – it was a massive step.”

The students, she adds, “look forward to coming here. Being able to meet new people is a massive thing, because a lot of them might not be able to go out with their families.”

Today, they are cooking chicken chow mein – but not before they try some new fruits. “Does anyone know what these are?” asks catering assistant Julie Turner, holding up a lychee. She passes a bowl around the room and the students experiment with the texture.

Turner shows the students how to remove the shells and extract the stones, and they follow her lead with varying levels of support from staff. Without any pressure, Turner invites them to taste it, and many, despite anxiety around new sensory experiences, choose to do so.

Read the full article.