An award-winning North East charity that recently unveiled its new kitchen after nearly three years without one has received a surprising boost from a renowned figure in the culinary world.
Kids Kabin, which has bases in Newcastle and Middlesbrough, opened its new kitchen facility at the start of this year, giving young people from low-income neighbourhoods the chance to build confidence in cookery. And soon they’ll be learning all about vegan cuisine thanks to Heather Mills, the businesswoman behind VBites, a British pioneer of plant-based products, which was established just a year before Kids Kabin in 1993.
Ms Mills, who became aware of Kids Kabin’s work by chance at a meeting involving one of its trustees, has not only offered her support in the form of hundreds of VBites ready meals in a can, made up of meat-free high-protein and Cheezly Beans for Kids Kabin, but is hoping to distribute a total food donation worth more than £800,000 to other causes in the region.
Ms Mills, who grew up in the North East, spending time in both Washington and Northumberland as a youngster, has personally purchased 300,000 of the products to offer to “struggling schools, students, and charities”. She explained: “Having been brought up in a family struggling for food, I’m horrified to learn that so many hard-working families are still battling to give their kids nutritious food every day.
“Our youth deserves better, and Kids Kabin is an incredible charity making a big difference, so I’m delighted to be able to help, and would like to use this donation to support as many charities as possible.”Ms Mills
The calcium-rich ready meals, which can be served alongside rice, potatoes or on toast, have up to 28g per serving of protein that is free from meat and dairy. Designed to feed a family of four for under £10, among the Cheezly Beans range are options that are palm oil, soya, and gluten-free.
“People in our local communities are working incredibly hard to give their kids healthy and nutritious meals to get the best start in life. We see first-hand how difficult that can be, so we’re so very grateful to Heather for her generosity.
“We’re already thinking about how we can use this donation, not only to give hearty meals to the children and young people we work with, and their families, but to enable them to learn more about how to make tasty, straightforward and inexpensive vegan meals that go further.”Will Benson, Kids Kabin’s Chief Officer, who collected the cans from VBites’ factory site in Peterlee
Cooking is one of the many creative and practical activities that take place for young people between the ages of seven and 13 at Kids Kabin’s dedicated centre in Walker, Newcastle, but the kitchen 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.
However, the new kitchen and café area at Church Walk now runs five days a week for after-school groups and offers school holiday provision, and family cookery sessions, and hosts visiting classes from local primary schools.
All this comes as the charity’s Middlesbrough base continues to expand after opening in Grove Hill in 2019, with regular satellite sessions now taking place in Easterside, Thorntree, Saltersgill and Pallister Park.
Now preparing for Kids Kabin’s 30th birthday, Will has seen the organisation grow from its roots in a disused Walker shop to a thriving organisation that supports hundreds of children each week. In addition to its Teesside activities, weekly satellite activities take place in Byker, Daisy Hill, Pottery Bank and Cowgate, alongside regular street workshops and event pop-ups across the region.
Find out more about how you can support 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. And if you’re a charity that would like to accept some of the ready meals in a can offered by Ms Mills, please contact email@example.com.