Since the release of my cookbook, I have been working tirelessly in the background on a project that has always been the drive and focus behind me doing any of this; the blog, the book, the social media. The main reason I started all of it in the first place:
I want to make a difference. I want to combat childhood obesity.
There I’ve said it! Such a huge crisis to tackle, isn’t it?
When I first started researching childhood obesity, I discovered that it was one of the biggest threats to the health of our Nation. And this epidemic is particularly prevalent in the disadvantaged areas of Ireland.
Studies from Safefood Ireland estimate that 85,000 children currently living in Ireland will die prematurely due to obesity and being overweight.
When you sit and digest these figures it’s just staggering. For the past week, I’ve been listening to radio interviews, debates and reading articles about a recent study that has revealed that mothers are no longer cooking with their children.
My blood was boiling as I listened intently to the righteous voices of educated people simply blaming the parents, finger-pointing and saying, “It’s just basic laziness”!
How could they possibly think that an epidemic so huge can be helped by piling blame and more guilt onto parents?
I have researched extensively the main initiatives in Ireland for improved health and well-being. They contain daily food guides, they promote the food pyramid on leaflets. To me, this is laziness; so ineffective. They are not thinking of how to tackle this problem on a bigger scale. They just bombard us with more information on diet and exercise, stuff that we already know.
The heart of the issue is that the majority of parents no longer have the skills to cook a balanced meal at home.
We have a whole generation of parents that have been brought up on convenience food. And honestly, this is through no fault of their own. The advertising trends of the 80’s and 90’s were instant potato and noodles in pots.
“Look, just add boiling water and dinner is made!” No effort required whatsoever, you can just sit in front of the telly and eat. And the TV dinner was born…
I hate the blame game.
I hate the guilt that is piled onto parents.
I have never met a parent who doesn’t want to feed their family well. It’s just knowing how to do it, knowing where to start. I want to get in there and actually do something productive. Enough with wasting money on handing out leaflets of the food pyramid!
So I have developed a 6-week cookery programme to teach parents in a non-judgemental, hands-on, relaxed environment how to budget, meal plan and make Family Food Easy.
I will initiate my programme by giving parents the choice of what they would like to learn to cook from my own cookbook; 105 easy recipes to choose from, the ingredients of which can be purchased in any local budget supermarket. At the end of the programme, the parents will have a healthy, budget-friendly meal plan that they can cook for their family at home.
I am passionate about teaching my programme to groups of parents in the disadvantaged areas that need it the most. To give them the skills they need to cook healthy family food.
The idea that cooking from scratch takes more time and is more expensive than convenience food is a myth. My Chicken Curry in a Hurry costs €2 per portion and is cooked in just 40 minutes, the very same time it takes to cook a frozen pizza.
Teaching a person a life skill is not only about the skill, it is also about the confidence and well-being that that person feels when they achieve it. Just imagine how these parents are going to feel when they cook a meal from scratch for the first time and taste how good it is. And then being able to do that for their own family at home…
I have worked endlessly over the past few months to get this programme off the ground. I have gone to the Government, the ETB, the local County Councils and all I’ve been met with is, “We will put your idea on file”.
I’ve been like an enthusiastic fly buzzing in their ears only to be swatted away at every turn. It has been so deflating and yes, I’ve felt like walking away many times. I’m only one person, can I really do it on my own?
But the thing is, I believe in this too much to walk away.
At the beginning of March, I applied to be part of the Academy for Social Entrepreneurs Ireland. These guys support high-potential social entrepreneurs to tackle Ireland’s social problems by investing and connecting us to Ireland’s leading business people and experts to help achieve maximum social impact.
Out of 204 applications, I made it through (with 29 others) to their Bootcamp. I still have a lot of hurdles to cross, I may even fall at the first, but I will work my absolute hardest to get this programme over the line.
Girlies, this is one of the most important blog posts I have ever written. Your support and belief in me has always meant the world to me! I know I am not one woman on my own, I have always had you guys shouting from the sidelines, cheering me on.
I will continue to drive forward with the passion and belief that Family Food Made Easy carries the important message that healthy, family cooking is essential for future generations to come.