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Jamie Oliver cooking centre celebrates third anniversary

The Rotherham branch of Ministry of Food opened in 2008.

A cooking centre, founded by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, is celebrating its third anniversary this week.

Ministry of Food, which was formed as part of a 2008 Channel 4 documentary, helps residents in Rotherham to learn the basics of cooking, via courses that are held throughout the year.

The centre, based at All Saints Square in Rotherham Town Centre, also organises birthday parties for clients and sells fresh produce including sandwiches, omelettes and salads.

Jan Davies, Ministry of Food’s manager, said: “I have been here for most of that time, and I have seen it grow and develop to what we are now.

“The Ministry of Food is now fully established in Rotherham as a fun place to learn how to cook delicious, economic and healthy meals using fresh ingredients from local suppliers.

“We take our sessions out into the community, too, working in schools and community groups with children as young as five [years old].

“As a recently established Social Enterprise, we need to generate income to sustain our project – we have opened a café selling healthy meals to the public.

“Our location in All Saints Square is perfect for the pavement café culture.”

A healthy lifestyle

Ministry of Food was founded by Mr Oliver to help implement a healthy lifestyle in Rotherham, after some town residents controversially opposed his healthy school dinners strategy in 2006.

Rotherham-based mothers passed crisps and takeaway burgers through school railings, which proved to be the inspiration for Mr Oliver’s Ministry of Food campaign.

The centre now provides advice to local residents on issues ranging from ingredients, nutrition and cookery equipment to exercise, stress and smoking.

“Recent statistics for Rotherham show parts of the borough are not the healthiest of places to live [as] life expectancy is well below the national average,” said Ms Davies.

“A lot of the health issues are poor diet related. We really need to show these communities how easy it is to cook healthy and affordable meals for the whole family.

“But we have more to offer. By completing a course of ten sessions with us, it is a delight to see the people grow into confident adults and young people [who are] proud of their newly acquired skills, and their sense of achievement just shines from them.

“Through our work experience and volunteering programme, we are also able to enhance employability skills [and] many of the team go on to find paid employment.”

A birthday celebration

To celebrate Ministry of Food’s third anniversary, a family fun day is being held on Wednesday 17 August. It will take place at All Saints Square, and outside the Ministry of Food centre, from 10.30am to 4pm.

The event will promote the achievements of the centre – as well as celebrating education, cooking, employment, and good health and well-being in Rotherham.

Cookery demonstrations and food tasting sessions will take place in conjunction with Rotherham College of Arts & Technology and local celebrity chefs including Andy Gabbitas.

There will also be prize draws – where attendees can win a cookbook signed by Mr Oliver, and electrical appliances donated by the Currys and PC World branches at Parkgate Shopping Centre – and appearances from local sporting stars.

Activities for children have also been organised including the Swamp Circus Youth Troupe, pancake making, face painting and a magician.

The Mayor of Rotherham, Councillor Shaun Wright, will also cut a birthday cake at 3pm.

“Our customers are all looking forward to joining in the celebrations. There are so many activities [and] all the family will have a great time,” added Ms Davies.

“We have over ten of our key partners showcasing what they do, and how we work together for the better health and well being of the people of Rotherham.

“It is a great way to find out about the range of services we offer – to schools and children’s centres, to community groups, to business – but in a fun and interactive way.

“Children can come and make pancakes – an easy recipe for young ones that hopefully will inspire them to learn other recipes.

“There will be other interactive activities put on by our exhibitors.

“It is a day celebrating what we have achieved so far and hopefully getting the people of Rotherham to support us even more to safeguard our future.”

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This news story was published in August 2011.