developing fast food alternatives at Urban Hope

27 February 2014

Being positioned around the corner from Essex Road’s busiest chicken shop presents a challenge to us here at Urban Hope.

Not only do we have our wastepaper bins overflowing with fried chicken boxes which housed the post school snack of ‘wings and chips’ but our computer keyboards and furniture is often covered in a film of grease from the multitasking hands of the children and young people who come along to the daily activities here at Urban Hope. These are obviously minor inconveniences and don’t match the concerns we have about young people’s diets which read like the menu of ‘Mississippi Fried Chicken’. Research tells us that the appeal of the 305 fast food outlets in Islington is the price, taste and convenience along with the social dynamic of sharing food with friends.

Whilst Islington council said in 2012 that they will look to “ban the setting up of new fast-food outlets within 200 metres of a primary or secondary school’, there are no similar plans related to youth projects. Here at Urban Hope we have a long tradition of teaching young people to cook nutritious and tasty meals within a tight budget. Some of them have gone on to find careers in the restaurant industry but most are now simply able to tell us about meals they have cooked at home for parents and siblings using skills learned at our cooking sessions. Not only do we cook together but there is an emphasis on sitting down and sharing meals together. It’s often in the context of a shared meal that we are able to provide emotional and other practical support to children and young people. We have found that with the support of local donors we are able to provide young people with meals that rival the appeal of fast food whilst providing a family mealtime feel.

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