A growing North East charity that has been without a kitchen for almost three years is finally cooking up a storm after opening the doors to improved facilities that are helping hundreds of young people from low income neighbourhoods to have fun and learn nutritious recipes for the whole family.

Kids Kabin, which has bases in Newcastle and Middlesbrough, started planning a new kitchen and café project in 2019 to benefit its members, who are all between the ages of seven and 13.

Cooking is one of the many creative and practical activities that take place at Kids Kabin’s dedicated centre in Walker, Newcastle, but the project hit some delays as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the recent rises in inflation, which saw installation stall far beyond the original 16-week estimate.

Fast forward to today and the new kitchen and café area at Church Walk has been in high demand. It’s now running five days a week for after-school groups, school holiday provision, and visiting classes from local primary schools. And despite the delays, the organisation managed to keep the project within its original budget agreed back in 2020.

Kids Kabin’s old kitchen before work began

Not only that, but Kids Kabin is now planning regular family cookery sessions and collaborations with local secondary schools and other partners across the North East. And all this comes as the charity’s Middlesbrough base continues to expand after opening in Grove Hill just four years ago, with satellite sessions starting up in Easterside, Thorntree, Saltersgill and Pallister Park since then.

Chief Executive Will Benson has seen the organisation grow from its Walker roots in a disused shop in 1994 to a thriving, award-winning charity with weekly satellite activities in Byker, Daisy Hill, Pottery Bank and Cowgate in Newcastle, alongside regular street workshops and event pop-ups across the region, as well as its activities on Teesside. 

“We faced some challenges during the building project, work having started in September 2020 after the first lockdown. However, subsequent lockdowns and the impact of Covid on the health of our chosen contractor and his team severely affected this timescale.  

“This was further compounded with significant inflation in the cost of building materials. But to cut a long story very short, we adapted, redesigned and renegotiated, and having been without a kitchen for nearly three years, our young people and volunteers were ready to cook the moment the builders left!”

Chief Executive Will Benson

Each week, eight after school sessions are running that champion healthy options and the use of fresh fruit and vegetables, with young people crucially driving the process. Once the doors opened, they were able to really hit the ground running after being granted a total of £2,050 from Asda, Tesco and Waitrose respectively, to go towards ingredients and cooking materials as part of the charity’s ‘Kids Can Cook’ campaign.  

The new facility has five independent cooking areas, fully equipped with utensils, pots and pans, and each with its own hob and oven. The kitchen is also linked by a double door and handmade serving hatch to the adjoining room, which is a multi-use space with six tables and 24 chairs, for use as a pop up café, meeting room and drama workshop area. 

“All Kids Kabin members have a weekly vote on the following week’s recipe choice, with Kids Kabin groups from our Newcastle satellites visiting to cook and create during school holidays. 

“Classes from two primary schools have already visited for workshops linked to their curriculum, with 55 pupils so far having created Greek and ancient Egyptian recipes, and we now have the space for the families of our current members to join workshops – cooking together before enjoying what they’ve made in our adjoining café area. We’re really excited for how much we can do with the new space, and can’t thank all the generous funders that contributed enough.”

Will Benson

Funders and contributors to the project were the Bernard Sunley Foundation, the Sage Foundation, the RW Mann Trust, the Catherine Cookson Charitable Trust, Castle Scaffolding, the Garfield Weston Foundation, Slaters Electricals, Jebb Metals, National Lottery Awards for All, the Percy Hedley 1990 Charitable Trust, the Procter and Gamble Fund and the Virgin Money Foundation at The Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, the Rothley Trust, and the Percy Bilton Charity.

In the coming weeks, students from Walker Riverside Academy will be using the kitchen to create a ‘pop up’ restaurant for Kids Kabin members, who will thank them by creating a fun workshop experience of their own design in return.

A group of makers from the Men’s Group at Beamish are also busy creating wood carved panels to decorate the serving hatch to inspire Kids Kabin groups to create more carvings to decorate the kitchen walls. Kids Kabin members will then make the group a special meal as a thank you.

Kids Kabin’s young people also baked cakes to serve at a coffee morning at Treetops Village in Walker this week, as part of an initiative working with the Newcastle Council of Elders and Unfolding Theatre, and this great day has led to even more collaboration, as plans are now in place for the charity’s members to help brighten up the residents’ garden.

Kids Kabin international volunteer Milo (left) helps Calvin, with Millie looking on

 “It’s so big. You can have 10 people cooking and someone making cups of tea at the same time!”

Millie, a 10-year-old Kids Kabin member

“The new kitchen is amazing – professional, organised, and well-equipped. It’s certainly a lot easier to run a workshop here than in the little temporary kitchen we had with its single induction hob and toaster oven!”  

Milo Uygongco, an international volunteer currently placed at Kids Kabin

Find out more about Kids Kabin’s many activities, including pottery, woodworking, textiles and bike repair at kidskabin.org.uk, where you can also sign up to receive its free quarterly newsletter. 

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