Masterchef winner joins 300 children at Mayor’s volunteering summit

28 November 2014

300 London schoolchildren were joined by Masterchef winner Thomasina Miers and Unilever Project Sunlight to plan how to tackle food waste and food poverty in this year’s Team London Youth Summit. 22% of struggling parents go without food to feed their children, while 75% of us regularly throw food away.

The children, aged eight to 17, heard from inspiring speakers, including Miers and 15 year-old Grace Jones, who plans to set up a food bank in her local neighbourhood. They also donated over 70kg food to a local project to kick-start the initiative.

The Youth Summit is part of the Mayor’s Team London Young Ambassadors Programme, which has seen 500 schools and over 25,000 young people lead projects in their local communities, from tackling bullying in schools to raising awareness of homelessness.

The programme, run in partnership with Free The Children, has made a lasting positive impact on schools with over 90 percent of teachers stating that the scheme has increased enthusiasm for learning and improved behaviour among students.

The programme is being supported by Unilever Project Sunlight and Spirit of 2012, enabling the Mayor's programme to be offered to every London state school by 2016, offering all young people the chance to participate in this movement for positive change.

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said, ‘I am delighted to welcome these school children to City Hall, the leaders of tomorrow, who have an indomitable drive to tackle key issues like this, and make London an even better city to live and work in. The Team London Young Ambassadors programme has been a brilliant success and I am thrilled that Unilever Project Sunlight and the charity Spirit of 2012 have come on board to give even more children the chance to get involved.’

These energetic youngsters also heard from fifteen year-old Grace Jones, who spoke about the issue of hunger in the UK on the Unilever Bright Speeches TV commercial. She has received support from Unilever to set up a food bank to help those families near her who are affected by food poverty.

Speaking at the summit Grace said “Spreading the word to other young people is very important to me because I believe that a lot of small acts make a big difference and we all have the power to change the world. For me it has been amazing to share my views with the world in the Unilever advert and at the Youth Ambassadors summit, I hope to inspire other young people to address food waste and help those in hunger, by making changes at home, at school and even in the wider community.”

Thomasina Miers, founder of Wahaca and food waste activist, is a key supporter of the campaign. “This is a wonderful chance for the young people of London to come together and work out how we’re going to cut food waste and food poverty, which is such a huge problem and affects the lives of people every day. Their enthusiasm is infectious, and I fully support the Mayor’s Team London initiative to get all London school children volunteering. As we can see today, they are raring to go and it’s great to be part of such a meaningful yet fun day.”

Jon Goldstone, Unilever UK VP Brand Building Foods said: “It was important to us that young people were given a voice as part of Project Sunlight because we know that children see a world of possibility in which sustainable living is commonplace. We wanted to give children like Grace, the opportunity to speak out on an issue that mattered to them and empower them to take real world action. That is why Grace and the other young people featuring in our TV commercial around the world have received a grant to put towards making a change for good in their local communities.”

In addition to his work through Team London, the Mayor is committed to tackling issues around food waste and food poverty through a range of initiatives including FoodSave, which helps food businesses reduce waste and put surplus food to better use, and Healthy Schools, which teaches children the importance of healthy eating, regular physical activity, and emotional wellbeing.