On a cold Saturday night - you'd expect most young adults to be hanging out in pubs, clubs and house parties.
But increasingly there's a new wave of Millennials who are spending their time cooking up a storm - either in their own homes for charitable causes, or at their local shelters and soup kitchens in aid of the homeless.
Shelter From The Storm is one of these charities. SFTS is a completely free emergency night shelter providing beds, dinner and breakfast for up to 43 homeless people every night of the year.
Having recently co-founded the worldwide #CookForSyria initiative and as an advisor for Knorr's new 'Flavour for All' European initiative, I was invited to visit this shelter to meet with co-founder Sheila Scott. I wanted to see first-hand how the shelter operated, the types of volunteers it attracted, as well as explore how established companies and the general public can do more to help these important charities.
Wandering up the stairs to the entrance of the shelter, my eyes were drawn to the boxes of super fresh produce on the doorstep. Within seconds of approaching, a friendly figure popped through the door. It was the smiling face of Sheila.
Full of energy and passion, Sheila gave me a tour of the shelter including the open kitchen, community space and dining area, plus the female and male dormitory and laundry area.
Founded in 2007, their mission is to provide shelter and support for the homeless and dispossessed. This goes beyond a simple meal and temporary accommodation - but extends to a commitment towards longer term housing placements, training (languages, CVs) and employment (building relationships with corporate partners and third sector organisations to offer more work opportunities for guests), counselling, and additional support.
Sheila's number one hope is to find a larger premises, so she can help more people.
I decided to get involved with Knorr, as like me, they believe everyone should have access to flavoursome food. Through their new 'Flavour for All' initiative, they will be partnering with shelters like Shelter From the Storm, soup kitchens, and volunteer cooks across Europe, the UK, Belgium, Greece, Switzerland, and Portugal.
After my tour of the premises, a young group of volunteers started to arrive, carrying the boxes of produce into the kitchen. After a quick briefing with Sheila, the team got into action and started chopping onions, leeks and garlic, and preparing chicken thighs.
"What's on the menu?", I asked.
"Slow baked chicken with garlic and lemons," replied one of the young volunteers with a cheerful smile.
The volunteers, I later found, had all met at Shelter From The Storm. Some had been volunteering for only a few weeks, whilst others had been volunteering on a weekly basis for over a year. They all came from different backgrounds, none were experienced chefs, but all had felt compelled to do something for others in need.
One of the volunteers in his mid-twenties told me he preferred helping out at the shelter every Saturday - rather than hanging out at the pub. Another young volunteer - who works in the city - told me he had heard about the shelter through a friend, and has since brought other friends along to volunteer.
There was also a young lady who was chopping up a mountain of onions, crying and laughing at the same time from all the chopping. It was fantastic to see the energy and enthusiasm in the room.
Not long after my chat with the volunteers, those seeking refuge at the shelter started to arrive. I can't even begin to imagine how it must feel to be out in the cold all day - but to be able to come to a place of warmth and compassion where a hot, nutritious meal is served and can be shared with others is truly a great thing.
Delicious and accessible food is something many of us take for granted. Yet for those in need, flavourful food is often missing from their lives. The consumption of nutritious and flavourful food has a natural link to physical, spiritual and emotional wellbeing.
It's really inspiring to see how Sheila and the amazing team of volunteers are working together with organisations like Knorr to enrich the lives of people who are dependent on food aid.
From the provision of funding for essential kitchen equipment, to store cupboard essentials such as Knorr's stock cubes (to enhance the flavour of each dish), Knorr's initiative is designed to create a sustainable model which delivers flavourful and nutritious meals to those in need. There are even plans to provide culinary training to volunteers, so they can pass on their skills to others in the future.
As a 'foodie' and an avid supporter of other charities such as Magic Breakfast, Action Against Hunger and #CookForSyria, I love the idea of combining people's love of cooking with helping others.
It's also great to see other top chefs promoting charitable causes through food. Iconic Italian chef Massimo Bottura launched Food for Soul soup kitchens in Milan last year. Jamie Oliver has also been promoting the idea of Community Fridges on his new TV show.
Since my visit, many close friends have already signed up to volunteer at Shelter From The Storm or their local food charities. I myself will be volunteering more over the coming months and challenging other companies and brands to get involved in their own way.
Through collaborations plus the collective power of social media and word-of-mouth, it's encouraging to see more Millennials cooking for good. It also demonstrates how small actions can lead collectively to important change.
To find out more about Knorr's #FlavourForAll initiative, visit knorr.co.uk/FlavourForAll, and watch a video about it here: https://www.knorr.com/uk/Flavourforall/whatisflavourforall/flavourforallvideo.html
If you'd like to support the work of Shelter from the Storm, please donate here: http://sfts.org.uk/donations/About Clerkenwell Boy:
- Award Winning Food Instagrammer (Observer Food Monthly)
- Food Editor for @London on Instagram (~2m followers)
- Contributor @SUITCASEmag
- Judge at The Evening Standard Restaurant Awards, Young British Foodies Awards, Taste of London Awards
- Listed as POWER 1000 'Most Influential People in London'
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