Based in Toxteth in Liverpool Unity Youth Centre helps to feed children and their families and they are looking to raise funds to build a new kitchen to continue their work. Tony McDonough reports
A youth centre in south Liverpool that helps to feed hundreds of local children is looking to raise funds for a new kitchen.
Unity Youth Centre in Toxteth has been supporting its local community during the COVID-19 pandemic. It feeds children and their families during both school term time and the school holidays and has been hosting free weekly Zoom cooking classes.
The widely-reported Government refusal to provide free school meals during the school holidays has brought the work of organisations such as The Unity into sharp focus. Now its aim is to transform its tiny rundown 20-year-old kitchen into a much bigger space to accommodate and supply more meals to the local community.
The Unity, which has welcomed generations for over 60 years, is a completely free facility where children from ages five to 19 are welcomed. They can take part in arts and crafts, exercise, academic support, free excursions, social interaction and it provides a safe environment for families who need extra childcare support.
From March to July, workers embarked on a weekly delivery through working with initiatives and businesses such as the Steve Morgan Foundation, Onward Homes, Pret A Manger, Booker, Tesco, Bay Tree Cookery, The Lord Mayor’s Fund and local councillors, receiving funds or food that would’ve otherwise been wasted or gone to landfill.
They dropped off the essential items to households in need and checked in on the elderly within the local area, delivering a total of 830 packs and reaching more than 2,500 people.
Taking its sessions online, one of the most popular Zoom classes was and continues to be The Unity’s weekly cook along which the centre provides all of the ingredients for. Dishes including salt and pepper chicken, sticky sweet and sour chicken, pizza, curry, veggie lasagne, falafel, healthy pancakes and fajitas.
Since restrictions eased, The Unity has continued to support families through distributing packages that are available three times a week – with today’s total amounting to over £600 worth of food.
The centre is hoping to raise £17,000 in a bid to create a spacious, modern kitchen and provide multicultural and intergenerational cookery projects to continue feeding families who are struggling, whilst also limiting food wastage.
The funding will be spent on knocking down walls to create the additional space, the kitchen itself and on having it fitted and installed. While The Unity will receive some funding, it needs the support of the local community to make the new kitchen possible.
Julie Smith, co-ordinator at The Unity Youth Centre, said: “We’ve been providing free meals and food to children and their families for many years but our kitchen became so old and tired that it wasn’t fit for purpose anymore.
“With COVID, we took our cooking classes online which allowed us to continue providing for the children, whilst also making it a family-orientated activity to get everyone involved.
“The online sessions have and continue to serve their purpose, but once Liverpool gets back to normal and we can have the children back in the centre, we want to be able to serve more children and people from the local area. No one should ever go hungry.”