Cooking up a storm

Clare Donovan has been cooking meals for people in need during the pandemic

Clare Donovan, founder of Cooking Champions CIC
Clare Donovan, founder of Cooking Champions CIC

When the Covid-19 pandemic first hit and people were suddenly isolated at home, community groups across Enfield sprung into action to help.

One of those was Cooking Champions, a social enterprise launched by Clare Donovan alongside her job as a maths teacher at Highlands School. The organisation was set up to provide hot meals for homeless people, but had not been running for long when the pandemic arrived.

Clare posted a message on an online forum asking for volunteers to help cook meals – and the response was immediate. Nearly 400 were prepared on the first day alone, using 70 crates of food donated by a catering company shut down because of lockdown. Clare told the Dispatch: “I thought, rather than sitting in the house I could go out and cook food.

“Within ten days we had found a venue and we were cooking 1,000 meals each week. To begin with we were mainly feeding NHS staff, but the more I looked into it, the more I realised how bad the local situation was. I discovered one-in-three children lived in poverty in Enfield – the eleventh highest in the country.”

Clare is passionate about food and had been running catering at local events for several years, in her spare time, and it was these skills she put to use to build Cooking Champions into such a big operation. Unlike traditional foodbanks, people in need can refer themselves without the need to go through an assessment. Clare said: “There is no judgment. We are a lot more informal than normal foodbanks. We take great pride in the fact we have never turned anyone away.”

Cooking Champions was based initially at Winchmore Hill Sports Club, and then Millfield Theatre, but for the last year has been operating out of St Peter’s Church in Grange Park. Free food is provided by a charity, The Felix Project, and all meals cooked are delivered directly to people’s homes.

Clare recently left her teaching job to focus full-time on Cooking Champions, and is now developing its community reach by running food education workshops for young people and a community cafe for older residents. She added: “I want to thank everyone who has helped – I know a lot of people have donated time and money and it’s been a huge community effort.”

For more information about Cooking Champions:

Enfield Community Heroes

This article is the latest in our ‘Enfield Community Heroes’ series, sponsored by Edmonton Green Shopping Centre. Dispatch readers are welcome to nominate their own local hero – someone who has gone above and beyond to help support the local community. Simply email your nomination to [email protected].