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Tuesday 10 September 2013

Families at West Ham cooking up a storm

Community Trust and Ministry of Food Stratford team up to give families new skills

Family Fit Club participants learn new skills at the Ministry of Food Stratford

Parents and their children recently got the chance to make their own meal from scratch in a cooking workshop laid on by West Ham United Community Sports Trust and Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food Stratford.

The families, who were selected to take part in the workshop after completing the Trust's 12-week Family Fit Club course, learnt new techniques and skills as they prepared and cooked their own chicken fajita dish with homemade guacamole and salsa. The practical cooking session was the first of its kind to be run by the Community Trust and the Community Health Projects Manager Tania McKay believes the lessons learnt in the workshop will prove vital for the children in the years to come.

"The idea was that they would cook from scratch and there were no unnatural ingredients in there at all," McKay told "It was showing them how simple it can be to cook fresh, healthy food.

"The programme has brought parents and children together"
Tania McKay

"They had never done this thing before and it worked well. It brought the children out of themselves and it will build up their confidence. They learnt new skills, like how to cut fruit and vegetables safely, which they will use in the future. The parents feel a lot more comfortable with the children helping out at home because they were taught the correct techniques."

The cooking workshop is the culmination of the Family Fit Club programme, which has made a significant impact in the local area over the last few years. The programme was introduced during the 2008/09 season to address specific issues in Newham, in which the club are based and which is one of the most deprived boroughs in the country. The poverty rate in the borough is double the national average and there are low rates of physical activity participation and high levels of obesity.

The 12-week Family Fit Club scheme, delivered in partnership with the Premier League, encourages and supports families to become more active, getting parents and children exercising together while reinforcing healthy living and eating messages.

"It's been a huge success, we have had 1,800 people who have come through the programme over the last three years," McKay said. "It has been well received and it has brought parents and children together.

"The sessions are fun and enjoyable and we focus on not using a lot of equipment. We tend to use things they would have in their home already, for example fun family games with a tennis ball. Parents also get the chance to lead on various tasks such as stretches and warm-ups, which helps to build their confidence levels, while the work can continue in the future with the help of peer groups which offer guidance and support to other families."

Next step

The taster session was such a success that the Community Sports Trust are now looking to team up with the Ministry of Food Stratford to deliver longer and more detailed cookery programmes in the future. The Ministry of Food Stratford delivers cooking classes and demonstrations particularly to those who are the hardest to reach in the Borough of Newham.

"We have predominantly focused on physical activity and healthy-living workshops, teaching parents and children what healthy eating is and how they can make little changes in their everyday lives," McKay said. "As we do not have cooking facilities, giving them practical cooking experience is the next step.

"You can tell people how to prepare food, how much they should be having, but giving them the skills to do it when they go home makes a bigger impact in terms of making those changes. This is the start of the relationship with the Ministry of Food Stratford that we'd like to take forward to encompass what we have been doing over the last three years with the Family Fit Club, as well as adding a new element to broaden that and hopefully offer a more comprehensive package to parents locally."

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Key Points

  • Family Fit Club participants learn new skills at cooking workshop
  • Workshop laid on by West Ham United Community Sports Trust and Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food Stratford
  • Partnership could be expanded in the future