Sunderland Association Football Club's Foundation of Light leads the way with cooking initiative to tackle holiday hunger
The Foundation of Light has been providing the city’s children with healthy packed lunches, family cooking sessions and bags of fresh ingredients to help ensure children don’t go hungry during the summer holidays.
With 10,500 children across the city eligible for free school meals and the government deciding not to continue its food voucher programme over the summer, the charity wanted to ensure children continued to receive nutritious meals and a balanced diet.
Each day Sunderland Association Football Club’s official charity has been providing children with free ingredients including pasta, rice, herbs and spices, fresh vegetables and tinned produce as well as recipe cards to cook evening meals.
Around 370 bags of food have been sent home to Sunderland households each week.
Head of Football in the Community, David Dowson, said: “We’ve teamed up with the holiday hunger initiative. It’s really important that children in the local area have this opportunity, especially during the holidays when some children might not be getting that healthy meal each day.
"If we can assist that by providing a nutritious healthy meal that can only be good for the local community.
"It’s also about getting people together at home and cooking as a family. It’s vital for healthy lifestyles that children learn about nutrition and healthy meals from a young age.”
The recipes are designed to be both healthy and budget friendly. One of those to have enjoyed the meals was Cameron Talbot-Browne, 10, who attends Barnes Junior School.
After receiving his recipe bag for vegetable garlic noodles he said: “I’ve really enjoyed the football but have also enjoyed taking the ingredients home and helping my mam and dad to cook them.
"The last meal we made was vegetable chilli and we absolutely loved it. All the food has been excellent and my parents have kept all the recipe cards.
"It’s important to eat good food to be healthy.”
As part of the initiative, families in the local community have been invited to take part in daily parent and children cooking sessions at the Beacon’s Jamie Oliver Ministry of Food kitchen.
The sessions have been led by family and learning lead, Sarah Coyne.
Sarah said: “We’ve been using the Olympics as a theme for children to learn about food and cook different dishes from around the world. Families have prepared dishes such as Japanese katsu curries, Mexican fajitas and Greek gyros.
"As well as providing a cooked meal it’s also about learning about nutrition and trying different types of food.”
Mum Katy Bothick, 35, was taking part with her two children Pearl and Reuben.
She said: “The sessions are something we look forward to and it has been really nice to see them developing their cooking skills and taking pride in what they’ve made.
"This sort of initiative can be hugely important in ensuring children get a good meal. We are fortunate but plenty of families with children on free school meals need that support during the holiday periods.”
Pearl, 10, added: “I really liked making the meatball tapas and I’m keen to do more cooking at home.”
The Foundation of Light has been running football and multi-sports activities for over 200 children per day over the summer including sessions for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).