I believe we should inspire young people to take their futures into their own hands, whatever their starting point in life. There are so many ways this can be done and often it’s the smallest and simplest interventions that have the furthest reaching impact.
The idea of helping young people propel themselves forward is a key aspect of the work I do. Having worked in the homelessness sector for a number of years, I’ve seen how using food in a positive way to prevent homelessness is important. Disadvantaged young people can really benefit from being inspired like this, but all young people deserve this chance, whatever their starting point in life is. I always deem myself to be super lucky, as I had brilliant parents and a supportive family. But even then I didn’t do very well at school – my GCSE results spelled ‘FUDGE’. At least it was a culinary theme! Whatever opportunities and support networks young people do or don’t have, I feel strongly about helping them push themselves forward.
How to inspire as many young people as possible
One of the ways I help young people is through my books. Last week PwC wanted to work with us for their One Firm One Day event – a day when all employees are allowed to go and spend a day at a charitable project. We did a double takeover day at Brigade, with the Executive team cooking lunch and a strategy team cooking dinner – between them they served 160 covers. But another PwC team also took some of my books – How to Find a Job and Keep It – to young disadvantaged people in a school. They sent me some feedback that totally bowled me over! They said the books really opened the eyes of Year 10 students about what the expectation would be in the workplace when they get there. The school’s independent careers advisor said it would be his dream to provide a copy of the book not only to every student in the school, but across the whole country, and that a book like this is long overdue. It really drives me forward to hear things like this.
For my next book, I’m planning to do something a little bit different. The book is also aimed at young people, inspiring them to start cooking and keep cooking once they’ve started. I’ve just handed the manuscript over to Penguin and following the design process, it’ll be ready by Christmas. What I like to do with my books is to get them sponsored so I can give them away free to people who can really benefit from them. This time I’m planning to set up a crowdfunding campaign for this purpose. For example, this will enable someone to donate a book for every book they buy, or if they buy multiple books, they’ll have the opportunity for me to cook for them at a supper club or event. I’m planning the details at the moment, but I hope this will help me spread important messages to as many young people as possible.
Spreading the message through creative solutions
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve also met up with a range of inspiring people and organisations who are keen to collaborate.
Drive Forward Foundation is an organisation I’ve known for a while now and we’ve recently rekindled our relationship. They work with around 400 young people per year who have been in foster care or have been looked after by the state in some capacity during their childhoods. They need a little extra inspiration in their lives, so I’ll be sending them some copies of How to Find a Job and Keep It books, and I hope I’ll be able to support them in a similar way with my new book too.
I also met up with Gerri McAndrew OBE – the CEO of Buttle – a charity that gives young people a helping hand when they need it. This can be anything from travel money to get to an interview, or a grant to get someone into further education. They give around 10,000 grants away per year, which is amazing, and it’s all organised by a small team of 16 people. We met up to see how we can work together as there are lots of synergies. This is another example of an organisation I’d love to be able to give my new book to for free.
When you start thinking of creative ways to spread important messages – from collaborations to simple ways anyone can make a contribution – you realise how much can be achieved. Other engagements I’ve had in the last couple of weeks have shown me this too. Last week I went to The Marketing Academy, which is a non-profit organisation running nine-month programmes for young marketeers working everywhere from Google to charities and social enterprises. I delivered a lecture on ‘purpose’ and told them about my social purpose and how I live and breathe all the things I stand up for. Many of them got back to me with amazing feedback, keen to collaborate in the future too.
I also went back to Refettorio Felix last week for a launch event for Grundig’s RESPECT FOOD programme, in partnership with Massimo Bottura’s Food for Soul NGO. Grundig has some great innovations to support sustainable living and to tackle food waste. They’ve got everything from washing machines that use far less water than their competitors, to intelligent fridges that scan food items, communicating with you so you use food up before it goes off. Refettorio Felix is really making a name for itself as an initiative companies want to support, and I personally love to see another example of social innovation and the corporate world coming together. I’ll also be helping Refettorio Felix understand how to increase the relationship with the homeless people they feed every day and move them onto some positive next steps.
Sometimes the simplest interactions we have with others can have a far-reaching impact.
The idea that small, simple steps can sometimes bring about the biggest changes applies to eating well too. My recipe this week is from my forthcoming book for an avocado and pasta salad with flaxseed. It’s easy to make and is full of positivity-inducing nutrition.
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