‘No child should go to bed hungry’: this project helps families eat affordably

Tom Kerridge’s chef smarts combine with Marcus Rashford’s star power to tasty effect in Full Time Meals, which aims to make food go further for families

Tom Kerridge was a hungry teenager before he became a chef. After he’d played back-to-back rugby games at the weekend, his mum, who held down two jobs to keep the family afloat, always had a Sunday roast ready for him and his brother.

“My brother is 6ft 5in. We were two big Gloucester lumps. [but] she was always there for us, always trying to make sure we had what we needed,” Kerridge recalls.

From his council estate beginnings, he has gone on to find television fame and cooking success (his Marlow restaurant has two Michelin stars), but memories from his childhood kitchen remain fresh – as his new, youth-focused cooking campaign clearly shows.

Kerridge teamed with Marcus Rashford, England’s football star and Manchester United football player, to launch Full Time Meals, a 12-month series on cook-along videos, which is published weekly on Instagram or Facebook.

The initiative grows out of Rashford’s groundbreaking work to challenge child poverty – a condition now reckoned to affect more than 4.2 million children across the UK.

Kerridge has created 53 recipes, all of which are affordable. He’s a fan of frozen veg, for example.‘Fun’, ‘tasty’, ‘quick’, ‘simple’ and ‘relatable’ are other key descriptors he uses for the Full Time menu, which ranges from classics like chicken pie, and ham and pea risotto (“a £1 wonder”) to more offbeat inventions, such as smashed peas on toast and hot dog pasta.

Full Time Meals grew out of Marcus Rashford’s work to tackle child poverty. Image Oleg Bkhambri

Culinary creativity is one of the lessons passed on by Kerridge’s mum. Their household budget rarely stretched to a leg of lamb or roast beef on a Sunday, so instead she’d roast rolled sausage meat. 

“She would always do extra, as well, because she knew we’d turn up with other kids from the estate,” he recalls. “If we came back with no one, then there’d be bubble and squeak the next day.”

The same thinking explains Kerridge’s enthusiasm for making meals from fridge leftovers. He’s a big fan of American-style toasties for exactly that reason. Two quick tips: grate everything (“it stretches much further”) and include a nugget of cheese (“it binds everything together”).

If you’ve helped 100,000 people to cook a tea that they might not normally do, then that’s massive

He’s conscious that millions of children may get only one good meal a day, so the Full Time Meals recipes ideally need to be as filling and nutritious as possible. But identifying recipes that kids “actually want to eat” is equally important, he says.

The fish finger sandwich is now on the menu. A staple in Kerridge’s after-school repertoire when preparing tea for his younger brother (“they ft perfectly into a square piece of bread”), this childhood favourite recently provided the centrepiece of a guest video by One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson. The short film was viewed 1.7 million times on Instagram. 

Kerridge notes: “Alright, some of them just watch because they’re 1D fans, but actually, you know, if you’ve helped 100,000 people to cook a tea that they might not normally do, then that’s massive”.

Partly, the campaign’s success is due to its star-powered star quotient. Kerridge posts a video every other Sunday, followed by a clip each Monday that shows a celebrity cooking the exact same dish.

Among the celebrities to have had a crack at copying Kerridge’s super-simple recipes so far are Russell Brand, YouTuber Mark Hoyle (AKA LadBaby), England midfielder Jordan Henderson and the hip singer-songwriter Mae Muller.

Kerridge admits that it is difficult to eat healthy on a tight budget. As his mum’s job-juggling taught him, time poverty as well as cash poverty can be a big barrier. He insists that learning basic cooking skills at an early age can make all the difference. 

“It takes a little bit of effort and energy, sure, but you can still create a healthy style of pizza, rather than buying a processed one, right?”

So, log on, cook up… and get munching.

Main image: Tom Kerridge in his Marlow restaurant, The Hand and Flowers. Credit: Christian Barnett