Field to Fork 2012 was our pilot youth programme delivered through a partnership between Turl Street Kitchen, Oxford Hub and Cultivate, with support from Oxfordshire County Council. Read on for more details, and check back soon for more details of new educational and training initiatives.
Three young chefs-in-the-making from Oxfordshire aged between 16 and 18 are spending the month of August getting to grips with every link of the food chain. We’re putting three teens through a full immersion in sustainable food. They’re spending a week discovering where food comes from in Cultivate’s market garden, a week learning the ropes of catering and service in the Turl Street Kitchen, and a week exploring how Oxford’s grassroots food projects are bringing communities together and revitalising the city. In the fourth and final week our three young aspiring chefs will source and harvest local ingredients and design a seasonal menu which they’ll cook and serve up at the programme’s closing event, the Field to Fork Feast.
In conjunction with local vocational tutors and social workers we’ve recruited three Field to Fork participants who we hope will benefit enormously from this opportunity. We’ve targeted young people who have ended up out of mainstream education as a result of behavioural or learning difficulties but who have recently shown great promise by securing places on the professional Chef’s Diploma in Oxford and Cherwell Valley College’s Catering and Hospitality Department.
We’ve designed Field to Fork to bring about two kinds of change:
1. Personal Change: Field to Fork is about empowering young people to take their futures into their own hands. The programme has been designed to equip them with new skills, boost their confidence and increase their employability so they go on to take the catering industry by storm.
2. Social Change: Field to Fork is training up a new generation of switched on chefs tuned in to how individuals, communities and businesses can come together to build a thriving food future for us all – one in which people and the planet take centre stage.
Field to Fork Project Manager Doireann Lalor explains that “this is the first ever Field to Fork Programme, but we hope to develop it in future years. We’re starting out with just three young people this year, but we hope that in time the Field to Fork Programme will help create a whole new generation of switched-on chefs; chefs who know how to use food to fuel the local economy, to protect our natural resources, and to build stronger communities. We’ve taken inspiration from brilliant projects like Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, but we’ve added our own twist – we’ve thrown in a really strong community element, and anchored the whole programme firmly in sustainability. We want to help create a generation of chefs who plan their menus in fields!”
Doireann continues, saying that “there’s a “skills gap” in the sustainable food movement which Field to Fork is trying to fill: there’s so much energy and momentum getting local food off the ground at the moment, especially in Oxfordshire, but there aren’t enough chefs in the mix. We need more visionary chefs to move things up a level so we can really overhaul not just the catering industry, but the whole food system, putting people and the planet in the driving seat. To make this happen, we need to create the right kinds of training opportunities for aspiring chefs. And if this can also help tackle youth unemployment and disempowerment then that’s really a win-win!”.
The impact on the participants is already apparent. Doireann Lalor explains that “We’ve really seen Ashley, Jess and Ellie flourish on the programme. They’re chomping at the bit, really wanting to get out and get some practical work experience, to learn new skills and ideas and to do something positive for the community. They’ve all been really grateful to have an opportunity like this, and thrown themselves into it”.
Field to Fork has been devised and delivered by a number of different organisations. Doireann Lalor comments that “It’s been wonderful bringing together Turl Street Kitchen, Oxford Hub and Cultivate to run this programme. The founders and majority of the staff of all three organisations are all under thirty, which makes the mission of youth empowerment really tangible to us all. We’ve also had huge support from a number of other organisations: the County Council have funded it, OCVC and Meadowbrook College helped us recruit the right young people, the Community Action Group helped us get the word out to the right people, and volunteers from Barrack’s Lane, Oxford Food Bank, OxGrow and F.A.I.
Farm have run activities for us and helped to make this a really vibrant and holistic programme.”
Cultivate is a new co-operative social enterprise working to make sustainably-grown local food more accessible in Oxfordshire: www.cultivateoxford.org.
Turl Street Kitchen is a social enterprise cafe-bar-restaurant which has been open in central Oxford for nearly a year, housed on the ground floor of Oxford Hub’s social action centre. Turl Street Kitchen is a member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association and a Low Carbon Oxford Pathfinder Organisation – two networks bringing businesses together to cut carbon out of their business models: www.turlstreetkitchen.co.uk
Oxford Hub is a charity which empowers students to bring about positive social change locally and globally, now and in their future careers: www.oxfordhub.org.
Community Action Group is a network of grassroots community groups tackling climate change. OxGrow, Barrack’s Lane Community Garden and Cultivate, who have all contributed to Field to Fork, are all members of the CAG network: www.cagoxfordshire.org
Oxford and Cherwell Valley College’s Catering and Hospitality Department is their flagship department: http://www.ocvc.ac.uk/Be_part_of_it_at_OCVC/Catering_and_Hospitality.aspx
Meadowbrook College is Oxfordshire’s Pupil Referral Unit and Integration Service: www.meadowbrook.oxon.sch.uk
Youth Unemployment: At the last count, 2.56 million people in Britain were unemployed, and just over a million of these are aged between 16 and 24: www.bbc.co.uk/news/10604117