After months of brainstorming, planning, and hard work Element Society’s Youth Board in conjunction with Fulbright Scholar Garrett Thompson held “Nutrition Night” at the Israac Somali Community Centre. Nutrition Night was attended by over 50 people who learned about healthy eating and were provided with a nutritious meal.

The project was an opportunity for our young people to get involved in their local community as well as collaborate with other charities to better support their service users. It was incredible to see how many young people are willing to give up their weekends to be a part of something that benefits someone else. I’m very proud of all the hard work they have put in to make it a success.

Nutrition Night was designed to reach one of Sheffield’s hard to reach immigrant communities. The goal was to engage Somali women in nutrition-related education activities. The women were empowered to make small and tangible changes in their cooking towards healthier eating. Furthermore, the project aimed to empower the Youth Board with the skills needed to make positive changes within their community.

Guests arrived at Vestry Hall on Sunday, May 13th to find the great hall set up for an amazing meal. As guests walked in they were greeted by a health resource fair staffed by two general practitioners, a nutritionist, and ShipShape (a local wellbeing organization). While the first course was served members of the Youth Board went table to table visually demonstrating sugar content found in common pop drinks. The main course was chicken curry served with rice. The meal was based off a traditional dish which was modified with healthy changes. Guests were provided with a recipe sheet to take home which detailed the healthy changes. During the meal, University of Sheffield graduate student and general practitioner, Anny Huang, gave an interactive talk on the effects of fats on health. To encourage behaviour change, guests took home oil spray bottles. Spray bottles have been shown to reduce oil usage in cooking.

Even Youth Board members themselves learned about healthy eating. Aisah, Youth Board member, said this:

There’s alternate ways of eating which are tasty and beneficial for your health

The Youth Board was intimately involved in all stages of this project from its creation to working at the event itself. They believed the project was a powerful way to show that young people are capable of creating change. This attitude should set an example for all young people to follow.

When asked why they got involved with this project Youth Board members reported that making a difference in their community was vital:

Volunteering in the community important because it portrays unity.

Volunteering helps the community greatly, without being costly. If more people volunteered we could make more and more things possible.

It is fun to help others in need.

Garrett Thompson (far left) receiving funding from former US ambassador to the UK, Matthew Barzun, (centre)

The Youth Board’s hard work and dedication paid off. Attendees to nutrition night reported remarkably positive feedback and asked for similar events in the future. Overall the experience was very rewarding for the youth board. They demonstrated that young people can make a positive impact on their community and learn something in the process.

It was a truly rewarding experience to work with a group of young people so passionate about creating positive change. Over the course of the project, I was able to see the Youth Board members personal growth as they engaged with their community and tackled challenging issues. The Element Youth Board serves as an inspiration across Sheffield reminding everyone that young people can achieve the unbelievable

Garrett Thompson, Fulbright Scholar and project lead

Leadership for this event was provided by Garrett Thompson a Fulbright Scholar who is pursuing an MPH at the University of Sheffield in conjunction with a  team of Sheffield University students including Oliver Taylor, Anny Huang, Andrea Villar, Mariam Shafiek, and Carla Tarazona. Funding was given by Matthew Barzun the former US ambassador to UK. Barzun’s vision aim is to engage young people cross-culturally within their communities.