Welcome to our new series, ‘Meet the charity’, where we meet charities from the Channel Islands. We find out what they are doing, how they are helping others and how we can help them succeed.
Today, we meet Yvonne Corbin, Chief Executive Officer of Caring Cooks.
Caring Cooks is a Jersey charity and seeks to give all local children the healthiest start in life. Diet plays a crucial role in the healthy development and prevention of ill health in children, and yet many families are unable to access healthy food or adequate cooking facilities. Many don’t have the knowledge or skills needed to prepare nutritious food.
Many families are unable to access healthy food or adequate cooking facilities
The charity’s mission is to empower children and young people in Jersey to grow, cook and eat healthy food in childhood and beyond, by educating, inspiring and supporting them and their families. We believe that in order to encourage children to develop good eating habits and live healthier lives, they should understand where food comes from, how to prepare it and should learn to enjoy a wide variety of ingredients.
Caring Cooks runs a number of programmes with these aims in mind. Although currently on hold due to Covid, our ‘Let’s Get Cooking’ programme offers children the opportunity to learn simple techniques at school, such as spreading butter to make a sandwich, snipping herbs and measuring using a spoon.
By the time children reach Year 6, in their final year at primary school, they are able to confidently use the ‘bridge and claw grip’, handle raw chicken while understanding cross contamination, and use heat independently to make a risotto. By the time they leave for secondary schools, they will have the skills and knowledge to cook 30 recipes from scratch and be armed with all they need to know about making healthy food choices in the future. These children can then share their knowledge with other family members.
As many as 1000 school children in Jersey go without a daily hot meal
Caring Cooks supports families via the Weekly Meal Service. Our chefs and volunteers produce a two course, nutritious meal every Saturday and then volunteers deliver the food to around eight families each week who need some help due to financial problems or ill health. This crisis service runs for six weeks per family and aims to bridge the gap during difficult times.
We launched initially in Janvrin and Samares schools, and owing to the success of the project, we now also provide a warm two course lunch to children at St Luke’s School too.
Flourish helps to ensure that the Island’s children are receiving the nutrition they need, using local food wherever possible and reducing the impact that single use plastic from lunchboxes has on our fragile environment.Since 2019, Caring Cooks have been nourishing children via the Flourish Primary school lunch programme, in association with the Government of Jersey. Incredibly, as many as 1000 school children in Jersey go without a hot meal on a daily basis, which is why we partnered with the Government to kickstart a pilot to bring hot food to children, every lunchtime.
Flourish’s termly menu is created by our head chef, Sarah Copp, to ensure that children are enjoying a variety of different foods and tasting new flavours.
Our most recent venture is Flourish Secondary, which has taken Flourish meals, snacks and drinks into five secondary schools in Jersey, and expanded our popular primary school service into Victoria College Prep. Despite the challenges of Covid, early indications are great, and Flourish Secondary is thriving.
Tell us about the charity’s ‘journey’
Caring Cooks of Jersey was brought to life by one Mum’s mission to help local people in need by cooking an extra meal for a family who were struggling due to ill health or financial difficulties, so that they could sit down and eat a nutritious home cooked meal together.
This caring cook was Melissa Nobrega, Founder and former CEO of our charity. Caring Cooks has gone from strength to strength, and we are now celebrating seven years of hard work in striving to empower the children and young people of our beautiful Island to better understand nutrition and improve their future health.
How do you make people’s lives better?
For some children, it is the only hot meal they will receive in a day
Jersey is not immune from the obesity epidemic that is becoming a growing problem in the western world. Even here on this wealthy Island, there are families who can’t afford fruits and vegetables, and don’t have access to facilities to cook a meal. Poverty isn’t the only problem, many people have never learnt the skills to cook a meal for their family, or simply don’t have the time.
Easy access to convenience foods that are cheap yet packed with salt and sugar means that many children are not receiving the nutrition they need to live healthy lives. Studies show that children with obesity are much more likely to experience obesity in adulthood as well, leading to a high risk of chronic disease and ill health in the future.
We support families with our weekly meal service to help them through tough times whilst they get back on their feet, and finally we feed children good food at lunchtime. These lunches support learning into the afternoon and give children the energy they need to make the most of their education. For some of these children, it is the only hot meal they will receive in a day.We aim to make people’s lives better by educating children how to cook and understand what a healthy meal looks like.
We hope that they will share that information with their families and be better equipped to cook for themselves and their own families as they get older.
Can you talk us through a typical working day for the team?
The work at Caring Cooks is very varied! We have a small office-based team who work on communications, fundraising, HR and other back-office tasks. We then have our primary kitchen where three members of staff spend the day preparing the food for the primary schools and getting it ready for delivery. That is also where the Weekly Meal Service magic happens. They are supported by our lunchtime servers who serve food to our primary school children in our four schools.
Our secondary kitchens are buzzing early in the morning as preparations begin for secondary service and are kept busy cooking and serving throughout the school day.
Do you work with government?
Our former CEO, Melissa Nobrega, worked tirelessly to develop a pilot lunch service with Government and again, to work through the tender process to finally win the secondary school meal service. Our new CEO, Yvonne Corbin, will continue to liaise with Government on both our lunch programmes and educational programmes to ensure that we can support and educate as many children on the Island as possible.
Caring Cooks has been supporting Government in informing policy development for around five years now and played a large part in the development of the Food and Nutrition Strategy launched in 2018. Our Outcome Based Accountability measurement framework allows us to provide data to Government on a regular basis to continue our involvement with policy development.
Where is your funding from?
Jersey is a difficult place to thrive as a charity – despite the amazing generosity of our donors, competition for funding is fierce as the Island is home so many charities, with over 400 charities registered with the Charity Commissioner.
We have been very lucky to have been consistently supported by the Association of Jersey Charities, without who we may not exist today, but we have also been fortunate to have the support of many local businesses, schools and community groups in Jersey and generous Islanders too. However, fundraising still remains a challenge as we exit the pandemic and competition for funding in the Island will be even higher than before, which is why we have taken the proactive approach of looking at alternative ways of income generation to support our full range of programmes.
In early 2020 the Board of Directors agreed to pursue more of a social enterprise model, while remaining fully charitable in our objectives, however social enterprise isn’t widely recognised in Jersey which has presented a number of challenges. Let us explain a little bit about social enterprise and how it works for charities in Jersey.
“A social enterprise is an organization that applies commercial strategies to make a positive difference for social benefit. The social impact is funded wholly or partly by reinvesting profits made by the organization to create social capital. Profits are not kept by owners or participants.
Social enterprises can be structured as a business, a partnership for-profit or non-profit, and may take the form (depending on in which country the entity exists and the legal forms available) of a co-operative, mutual organization, a disregarded entity, a social business, a benefit corporation, a community interest company, a company limited by guarantee or a charity organization. They can also take more conventional structures.” Source – Wikipedia
So, in the context of Caring Cooks, delivering school meals and other income-generating activity, not only delivers our mission of enabling children to eat healthy food, but we hope in time that it will generate enough surplus profit to enable us to scale our programmes of support and education to more children, young people, and their families in Jersey.
How has Covid-19 impacted your charity?
Within five days of the school closure announcement, we pivoted the entire operational model to step-up and support the Island with the daily Community Meal Service and in collaboration with a number of partners in Jersey, delivered nearly 11,000 meals to 293 households across Jersey over 15 weeks during lockdown. With the schools closed, we were able to use the kitchen and our staff to deliver the meal service, rather than school lunches.
In terms of fundraising, like most charities have experienced, it was a serious detriment to Caring Cooks as it meant that we were unable to hold events that we were relying on to raise money.
What’s been your biggest challenge as a charity?
It has taken time to change perceptions that there is food poverty in Jersey
We have often been told we are ahead of our time as an organisation, due to the pioneering work we have undertaken over the past seven years. Before Caring Cooks, there weren’t school meals or a curriculum focussed food and nutrition programme in primary schools, but it has taken time and dedication to change perceptions that there is food poverty in Jersey or a worrying upward trend of childhood obesity.
We are in a very different position now, mainly because parents have seen the incredible work we have done and the impact it has had on their children and their family unit, but there is still more to do to enable us to deliver our 2030 vision of touching every child, young person and their families with our programmes of support and education.
Can you share any pleasant experiences?
We ask weekly meal service recipients and parents of school children to complete regular surveys and it is always a pleasant experience reading the answers. The people we work with, on the whole, are so positive about Caring Cooks and the service we provide. People are genuinely delighted to have a meal arrive on their doorstep and parents are often amazed when children come home and share their knowledge of recipes or try a new food that they would never have touched previously. It makes our jobs worthwhile to receive this kind of feedback.
“Last year, Caring Cooks provided me and my family daily meals when my business folded due to Covid. I was really struggling and embarrassed that we needed support for a time. Caring Cooks delivered delicious food every day and it really helped getting our children to eat a more varied diet, which I am incredibly grateful for.”
What would you like the States of Jersey to do in order to help charities?
For some years now there has been a dedicated unit in the Government of Jersey to act as a conduit to bring the public and the third sector together, but critical people have left and the momentum has waned due to the pandemic. We would like to see this work start again with vigour as it’s much needed.
Particularly for us, there is a working group supporting organisations who identify as social enterprises which we are a part of. We have unfortunately missed out on potential funding opportunities because people think we are a commercial business, which is a shame as we are a registered charity (number 93) and remain a non-profit organisation committed to delivering impact for our Islanders.
We would like to see more said about social enterprise in the Island, and the benefit it brings to so many. For example, many don’t know that our bus service is a social enterprise with all profits reinvested, which means more services can run and fares can remain competitive. While the bus service is a very different model to what Caring Cooks is, it should be very much highlighted that spending money with a social enterprise not only brings benefits for the charity and its clients, but also gives you, the buyer, an instant sense of pride and gratification that the money you have spent makes a difference to another human being.
Are you looking for volunteers?
We are always looking for volunteers, particularly for the weekly meal service. We have vacancies for ad-hoc bakers, cooks and delivery drivers or how about taking part in an event for us and raise some money such as the Island Walk? Email us if you’d like to get involved!
How can people donate?
For more information about Caring Cooks
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