Bukola Garry was the winner of The Rank Foundation’s Memorial Award in 2015. Bukola works for Reaching Higher, whom we have been working with for a number of years. Here, Bukola has kindly written us an account of her 2015 Memorial Award experience.
I ended my Rank Memorial pitch saying – “Food being the major theme for this project is timeless, ageless, non-prejudice, it’s evoking, persuasive, it’s a legacy, it speaks so many languages. One of my favourite quotes says, ‘If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart’ ”.
And that was the beginning of my 3-month Rank Memorial Award adventure.
It’s hard to capture in a few words the richness of the Rank Memorial Award experience but part of what I learned was about staying passionate about your area of interest so that when you share it, or try and create something out of it, the young people you want to attract will catch that passion and take it even further. It just so happens that my passion for food translates to young people in a range of ways and is a life skill that helps to build their confidence and their independence.
On 5th January 2015 I packed a giant suitcase, said goodbye to my husband, family and friends and headed to Sydney, Australia to work with an organisation called Youth Food Movement. They also share the heart behind bringing young people and food together. The Youth Food Movement started out as a group of young people who came together around a table for dinner to share a delicious meal of locally sourced, seasonal produce and their love for food. Out of that birthed an organisation that triggered a way of thinking that embodies all the principles I wanted to learn from and incorporate back into a project in South London.
While in Sydney I spent time visiting different farms that embrace new technologies to help grow crops and rear livestock in a sustainable way. What was interesting was that teams of young people were running these farms, (everyone on site was under the age of 30) and offered workshops for young people living in the local area. These workshops showcased the importance of the farming industry and the different ways young people can support them through changing their buying habits and exploring different ways of cooking that celebrated fresh ingredients over convenience food. Although this was not the exact experience I wanted to replicate in a project, it was great to see the different strategies used to engage young people and the hands on approach to getting their message across.
These visits inspired an idea for a series of events that celebrated and showcased different produce and those responsible for growing/rearing them called “Meet the Maker”. The aim was to get young people talking about food sustainability while sitting down together to eat. These events were held in bars and cafes popular with young people to ensure the right target audience had access and would be interested to attend the event. All the promotion was done on social media, again to try and attract a younger audience and to help make the issue of food production relevant in a conversational space. These events proved to be really successful and triggered a series of conversations online and face to face that saw the Youth Food Movement team recruit additional volunteers as well as encourage young people to set up workshops and hubs in their local areas, based around sitting together at a table and shedding light on the changing food environment and the impact their actions had.
Since returning from Sydney I have been able to start up two food-based projects as well as continue to develop my own knowledge therefore extending my experience in Sydney into my everyday life here in London and having a positive effect on the young people I work with.
The first project is called “Take Away”, a 6-week food project teaching young people basic cooking skills, affordable and easy recipes that explore healthy eating, meal planning as well as recipes that represent their different cultures and heritage. It also considers different options for sourcing food sustainably. This workshop presents an opportunity for young people to build positive peer-to-peer relationships. The young people are able to learn to work as a team, developing confidence and a core life skill using food as a platform.
The second project is called Full Circle, a programme that supports young people as they transition out of the care system and into independence. The part of this project developed as part of my Rank Memorial Award experience is teaching basic cooking skills as well as teaching young people how to shop effectively on a budget while maintaining a balanced diet.
The Rank Memorial Award is more than just a 3 month trip abroad – it is an opportunity, one that allows you to start something amazing that will continue to be effective in the future.