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Joe’s story: Preparing food… while preparing for the future

05 August 2021

Our Creating Happy Memories campaign is all about creating positive new experiences after a difficult year and looking forward to the future.  For many students this is particularly true, as they deal with an educational experience unlike any in history and consider entering into the world of work for the first time. Here Year 10 student Joe explains what he learned while undertaking work experience with Family Action’s FOOD programmes, and how he’s using what he’s learned to shape his future.  

I’ve never had any experience of work before, so I was definitely interested to use this opportunity at Family Action and see how work compares to school.   

 It was particularly useful for me as Food Tech is one of the subjects I really enjoy. I like cooking and food preparation in general, which I think is slightly unusual as when I speak to my friends it’s something only a few of them are interested in. But I like the idea of being able to cook for myself when I’m older. My dad’s always in the kitchen exploring different cuisines and I’ll watch him and be inspired to try it myself.  

Plus I’m really interested in PE too – football, combat sports and badminton particularly – and learning about nutrition in class has made me realise how important it is for athletes to eat healthily.  

I looked into the work Family Action does through its programmes like FOOD ClubsCookalong and breakfast provision and I thought they were really good, so I was keen to start my work experience week. My mum works for the Food Programme, which was how I got the introduction, and everyone was very nice to me so there wasn’t too much pressure. It was just nice to do and learn some different things.   

It was quite varied too, for example, I did some research for the FOOD Clubs like looking at different recipes families could try with the food they were receiving that week … and even interviewed the programme manager. I’ve never done an interview and it was a bit nerve-wracking at the start but it was alright once I got going and he was a nice guy. He’s Scottish and we were talking about his favourite Scottish dishes. His was haggis and after talking to him I decided we would have haggis for tea! If you look into what’s in it then it might put you off but if you just forget that and eat it it’s not bad. I like it!  

I think I learned a lot from the week but what stuck with me the most was what I learned while looking into budgeting. On one hand, it taught me that you don’t have to buy the most expensive ingredients and can get creative using up leftovers and things you might otherwise throw away. However, I also realised that making a nutritious meal can be difficult for the families Family Action supports who are on a limited budget.  

It made me think how I may have the luxury of being able to throw away food and buy fresh – but for a family on a budget every little bit of food is so important and so now I make sure to use up all the ingredients I have. 

On a practical level, the work experience was useful for the future as I took and passed my level 2 Food Hygiene training during the week which I can put on my CV. 

Doing this work experience allowed me to “have a taste” and see if food is an area I’d like to get into, and it has helped me to decide that I would like to be involved with food some day when I start work for real.  

I’m still interested in sports (despite the recent England football result!) so I have been thinking a bit more about jobs I could do that would combine my interests – something like a sports nutritionist perhaps. I feel like it could all link together and keep me close to my interests. Let’s see.  

In the meantime, though I think this experience will still stay with me as I’ll be thinking about being more creative in my cooking. I had a Cooking Challenge to do each day – and made lots of different things, like a veggie breakfast, a pasta dish and a high protein meal.  

It’s been nice to have a change from school as school’s been difficult over the past year and a lot of things I was looking forward to, like a school trip to France, have been cancelled.  

I feel like we’ve been doing everything – the bubbles and the masks and all that – for so long, it feels normal for me and my friends.  

But thinking about work at this time as isolation is coming to an end has also made me think about the future and what’s soon to come this summer – meeting up with all my friends, going to the gym or the common … you know, just normal stuff!

If you’ve found this story interesting why not read more from other people looking to the future and Creating Happy Memories, find out more about our Food Programmes or take a look at our HeadStart service, which helps young people find work through volunteering, employability workshops and interview experience.