Churches in Tottenham working together to ‘Make Lunch’
Martina Kwapong, a community worker for St Francis at the Engine Room, in Tottenham Hale, reports on a project to help children discover how to cook healthy meals, while helping to tackle food poverty.
The St Francis at the Engine Room team in Tottenham has been working in the Hale Village and Ferry Lane community since 2012. In 2016, they will have a new permanent home in the exciting new church and community centre. This great building is being built to provide much-needed facilities for the 7000 additional residents in Tottenham Hale, as well as the residents on Ferry Lane estate, where Mark Duggan was shot in 2011 – which led to the riots across London.
A gift from our St Mary’s Finchley to tackle food poverty
40% of children in Ferry Lane primary school which is our local primary school are entitled to free school meals. This led us to explore how we could help these families during school holidays to provide healthy food. We heard of the national Make Lunch project and started to see how we could make that idea our own to best reach children and families in need.
Receiving a generous gift from St. Mary’s Church Finchley in support of this project means that we have been able to run this for a week in our Summer Holiday 2015, for a day in October half term and will do again in Easter 2016. We have around 14 young people taking part each time.
Working with local partners
Help from two local dinner ladies was greatly welcomed and meant we had a culturally diverse menu from lasagna and chicken skewers to chapatti with curry and stir fried noodles. Making sure that healthy salad was also served with every meal meant the children had plenty of opportunities to practice their knife skills (we did lose count of how many blue plasters we used that week!).
On the first day, children were given an apron, wooden spoon, bowl, and a folder for the daily recipes, all of which they got to keep at the end of the week as a reminder of their time at the Engine Room. We divided the front room into three stations – meat, vegetable and dessert sections so that children switched between them each day. We had lots of fun working hard slicing, cutting, peeling, mixing, measuring as well as learning to recognize herbs and how to work with meat.
On one of the days, we asked Crop Drop (a local organization that prepares weekly bags of local and seasonal organic vegetables for people to collect from the Engine Room) to come and show the amazing variety of seasonal vegetables and how they could cook with them.
The aim of the cooking club was not only to reach those families that might have been struggling to provide meals for their children in the school holidays, but we also wanted to pass on skills, knowledge, experience and extend the meal to others to taste and appreciate what the children had made.
This led to cooking for an extra 40 children and adults and opening a Make Lunch Café each day to all free of charge. There is something to be said about food and community. Food is a language that all cultures have in common, are proud of and can share with others. It was great to see everybody around tables talking, sharing with each other and seeing the parents so proud of their children’s efforts.
One lunchtime a group of young people (age 8-16 year-olds) performed for us and showed off their skills and talents. The mini local talent show was really inspiring for the children. We had some lovely feedback from the parents. Two sisters that came for three days said that it was the best thing that they did that summer and can’t wait for the next one, whilst several guests have commented on the enthusiasm and interest that their children now display for cooking at home.
More on the Engine Room and St Francis Church, Tottenham Hale can be found from the Diocesan webpages.
Martina Kwapong is a community worker at St Francis at the Engine Room in Tottenham Hale. When she is not helping all of the other children ‘make lunch’, she is busy keeping her two daughters out of mischief.