The students are predominantly 16-19 years old, but there is an adult education specialism as well, with day courses and evening classes for re-training, learning a new trade or to reskill. Newark is classed as a deprived area and is the third worst town in the UK for social mobility. So the funding that has been raised for these two new programmes is all about raising aspirations, raising awareness, and trying to get young people or adult learners into industry.
Students in need do have access to free College meals but, even with an option of adding funding to the College student card, there is a low uptake. There are many reasons for this, from problems around parents knowing/proving family income, to students not wanting to access the provision due to perceived stigma. Penny wanted to find a way to get food to these young people, but also to help them discover the impact of cooking and to retrain their thinking around healthy eating versus foods like takeaways.
Penny moved into this role after completing her Advanced Teacher Status, where she focused on the importance of food and the impact it has on education. She set up the College food bank, supported by the council and with members of staff bringing in food. They concentrated on food items that students could eat in College, so they can arrive in the morning and have a pot of porridge, a pot noodle or similar for lunch, and take food home with them at the end of the day. In addition, the College no longer sells energy drinks in the vending machines and students have access to free tea and coffee throughout the day. Learners are all given a refillable water bottle and there are water machines all around the College.
This was a success, so Penny wanted to expand from just dried foods and move into fresh foods. Last May, Penny got a grant for some food through the Lincolnshire Resilience Forum and, with this, over the half-term they produced a whole box of “Hello Fresh” style meals. In these, the students had 3 meals a day to cook for a family of 4, with recipes included for a variety of meals. The meals were very basic such as spaghetti Bolognese, tuna pasta, jacket potatoes – but some of the students had never had things like peppers or porridge and they didn’t eat fruit. And there were also treats included like a bar of chocolate and a bag of crisps a day!
The idea was to teach students about alternative ways of eating different types of foods, and the value that good food, fruit and vegetables can have in their diet. The students gave a great deal of useful feedback.
Penny became aware of FareShare Midlands after a community donation from Lindum. With the money donated Penny ‘did a Tesco shop’ and she created 30 “Hello Fresh” bags. The College shared the news of this generous donation and the resulting food bags on social media, and Ian Blackmore from FareShare Lincoln made contact with Penny on LinkedIn.
They have now set up a community fridge and the foods from FareShare Midlands go towards this and some foods are put into the bags, so the student has everything they need to cook a meal for the evening. The idea is that they develop cookery skills rather than putting something in a microwave. Hopefully they might also eat with somebody else and have the experience of sitting and talking, instead of going up to their bedroom and sitting with a microwave burger for the evening for example.
A student said “I thought I would just be collecting a little bag of food, not 3 bags worth of all these meals. I can’t believe what I have and am so grateful. It will give me something to look forward to over half term and to eat properly as I only usually eat when I am at college 3 days a week”.
Penny said “The relationship with FareShare is working so well for us and we really like it. The impact of the good food continues to grow. We now choose the food that is given and it is ‘matched together’, so that it provides the ingredients for a proper meal and also extras like yoghurts for a pudding. The monthly delivery by FareShare of fresh fruit and vegetables has just been different and so beneficial.
It’s very impactful for the young people. When you speak to them the next day, it has given them something to do rather than sitting on their Xbox all night! If they live on their own (some do, even at age 16) and they cook a meal it can then last them for 2 or 3 nights. Also, ultimately, it helps them come to college and be ready to learn”.