Beyond Food Foundation is a charity that works with people who have been at risk of or experienced homelessness to motivate and inspire them to gain and access meaningful employment. This employment fulfils their potential as well as supporting the community. Simon’s charitable mission began in 2004 as he volunteered as part of the aid effort in response to the tsunami in Sri Lanka. The cooperation of the international community, helping those who had lost everything, made him feel that he could do more for his own community. Much of the aid after the disaster had been short-term, providing provisions and sanitation but little opportunity for a return to long-term employment. Simon wanted to create an organisation that broke the cycle of poverty, imparting skills and eventually qualifications that would offer access to employment and hope for the future.
It was obvious from an early stage that Simon’s passion for cookery would play a large part in his charity work. The idea began small; teaching cookery lessons at homeless hostels and healthy, affordable nutrition on a budget. Over time the charity has developed to become Beyond Food, yet it still works on the philosophy that good food creates the basis for getting back to work.
The charity now operates a six-week course, Freshlife, which has provided 793 people who have been at risk of homelessness with cooking skills and knowledge about healthy eating and nutrition. As the course develops, the participants are encouraged to plan their own future, supported with their employability skills and given advice on any aspects of life they need help with.
At the end of Freshlife, participants are invited to interview for the Beyond Food United Kitchen apprenticeship based at Brigade. This is an intensive 13 month programme, resulting in a certified qualification, an NVQ Level 2 Diploma in Professional Cookery. The apprentices train for 6 months at Brigade Bar and Bistro before entering 7-month work placements in some of the most renowned restaurants and hotels in London, including the Savoy Hotel, Corbin and King Restaurants and Bruno Loubet’s Grainstore.
Those that do not want a career in professional cookery are given on-going support to find a career that suits them and to tackle the personal issues that have inhibited their ability to maintain work. Beyond Food has become a support network that changes lives, offering advice, companionship and opportunity. So far, 61 people out of 76 apprentices have graduated from the United Kitchen Apprenticeship, and over 793 have gone through Freshlife and received the continuing support of the Beyond Food team.