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Mum and son ‘united’ as volunteers in the kitchen for Marcus Rashford’s FareShare charity

We’ve all been inspired by the amazing and unstinting work of England international and Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford’s work for the Greater Manchester charity FareShare since he became an ambassador in March.

And we’ve all been touched by the soccer hero’s UK campaign to influence government legislation in providing free meals for the children of poverty-stricken families who experienced hunger much as he did as a boy when, as his mother says, they often didn’t have a loaf of bread in the house.

FareShare believes that no good food should go to waste and redistributes surplus food to charities that turn it into meals. Here are a few statistics:

Marcus Rashford volunteering at FareShare

57.3 million meals provided for vulnerable people

993,178 people per week are supported by charity members

1,500 volunteers – but there’s always the need for more (see below for how to get involved).

24,074 tonnes of food redistributed to charities.

So how did we get involved?

Two years ago, when life was less complicated, I volunteered to make a ‘thank you’ Christmas lunch for the volunteers and staff of Emerge 3 Rs and FareShare Greater Manchester, the charities I had chaired for the past five years.

This was meant to be a two-day affair with various people cooking each day. I selected day two and duly turned up to find no-one else present, no Santa’s little helper.

Luckily for me (and the volunteers eating) the lovely Rob Raikes turned up to volunteer in the warehouse. Two minutes later I had him ‘aproned up’ as my kitchen assistant. So far so good!

But, alas, this act of giving threatened to turn into the nightmare at Christmas as we realised that most of the donated ingredients for the lunch had been used the day before.

What was left was slim pickings indeed, some leftover turkey, Chinese spiced chicken wings and an assortment of vegetables. It was beginning to feel like a MasterChef challenge.

But somehow, with a lot of will and imagination, we managed to produce a bizarre quasi-Christmas, but seemingly delicious, hot buffet mixture. I was truly knackered (hats off to chefs who do this day in and day out) but loved every minute of it and decided this was going to be part of my Christmas from now on.

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at FareShare

When I volunteered again this year, I made sure I had reinforcements in the shape of my son, Hank – The Best Life Project’s Drinks Editor, who is a talented cook. When I say talented, I mean in the way I can open the fridge, sigh and think ‘eggs on toast again’, and he can produce a seven-dish tapas menu.

So, I felt confident that all would be under control. This time we had to come up with bowl food that could be eaten outdoors and cater for carnivores and vegans alike. Same old galley kitchen in a warehouse and this year a new challenge – we wouldn’t know what food was available until we got there – think Ready Steady Cook! where the amateurs create meals on the spot. Man, do we Hughes-Lundys love a challenge!

So, whilst I cleaned the kitchen ready for use, Hank did what he does best – look at random ingredients and create a fantastic meal.

I have to say, we haven’t always worked well together in the kitchen – it’s more a case of ‘too many cooks’ with both of us wanting to be Head Chef.

But as I have gotten older, I have developed a patience I once lacked and was happy to be relegated to peeling, slicing and chopping. I didn’t expect to get RSI from peeling the filthiest potatoes on the planet – remember those soil-encrusted spuds before the days of pre-packed veg?

So in a kitchen that was smaller than most domestic kitchens, we rustled up Cumin Spicy Wedges, Chilli Con (plant-based mince) Carne, Rainbow Rice and Black Bean Stew.

Whilst the volunteers at FareShare were sorting and packing food to feed our most vulnerable this Christmas, we were saying thank you by feeding them.

In a year of isolation, it was good to be part of something greater. We faced a few challenges together and worked as a team, which bodes well for Christmas Day cooking at Chez HL – although I was lumbered with the washing up again.

We may not have been as special as recent visitors, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, or as famous as recent volunteer Marcus Rashford, but the food we produced was more than enough and very well appreciated.

“That chilli was amazing with a wonderful ‘kick’ just what we needed on a wet, cold damp day to keep our spirits high – thank you guys!”

And I couldn’t help but feel that we had been beneficiaries, too. In a year of isolation, it was good to be part of something greater. We faced a few challenges together and worked as a team, which bodes well for Christmas Day cooking at Chez HL – although I was lumbered with the washing up again.

So, if you’ve ever thought about volunteering – give it a go and maybe next Christmas we’ll be cooking for you! If you want to find out more about the work of FareShare Greater Manchester, please visit https://www.faresharegm.org.uk/

Jacqueline Hughes-Lundy
Employing her business skills, experience and love of writing all in one place.

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