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Ulster University’s Culinary Arts students, Social Justice Hub and the Law Clinic have partnered with the North Belfast Advice Partnership, which runs the North Belfast Food Bank and Lower North Belfast Family Support Hub, to tackle food poverty.

Together they have co-created the Breakfast Club @ Home to ensure children in North Belfast are returning to the classroom fully fuelled and ready to learn, after Covid-19 restrictions saw them learning at home.

Covid-19 has greatly exacerbated the issue of food poverty this year and demand for the services of the North Belfast Food Bank has soared. Since the first lockdown in March 2020 the Food Bank has delivered 15,000 food parcels, 22,500 hot meals and 550 school lunches during Summer 2020, compared to the 15-20 families it supported per week pre-pandemic.

The Breakfast Club @ Home is currently supporting 100 families, providing store cupboard ingredients such as oats, flour and honey and equipment such as hand blenders and mixing bowls to create 10 healthy breakfast recipes over five weeks from 4 May to 8 June 2021. Fresh ingredients and the recipe cards containing two tasty recipes such as apple pie porridge and buttermilk pancakes are delivered directly to families once a week by the North Belfast Advice Partnership.

The funding for this Club is kindly provided by Alison Donaldson and her family. In fact they have provided sponsorship of the Ulster University Law Clinic over the past two years which has allowed the Clinic to collaborate with the University’s Community Engagement Team to engage with community partners in Belfast and the North West.

Alison explains:

“We were delighted to be able to support the Breakfast Club @ Home, and on a recent visit we saw first-hand the amazing work Sinead McKinley and her team are undertaking with multiple organisations and families, it is humbling.”

A North Belfast parent, participating in the Breakfast Club @ Home initiative said:

“We are really enjoying being a part of this, my daughter loves creating the recipes we receive, and she is even making them by herself.”

Dr Esther McGuinness, Co-Director, Ulster University Law Clinic explains:

“Our new Belfast campus will open from September and will strive to be a catalyst for change in North Belfast and the city centre areas. Thanks to Alison’s support, this partnership with local community organisations in Belfast and in the North West is making a positive impact on food poverty, helping local communities and has been really rewarding for all involved.

“The Breakfast Club @ Home has inspired our students to creatively tackle the issue of food poverty. Not only has it made a difference to our neighbours in North Belfast, but it has served as a really powerful learning experience for our students, supporting social justice while providing local families with practical assistance.”

Michael Gilles, the chef of Ulster University’s Academy Restaurant, has led his Culinary Arts students challenging them to create, test and photograph the recipes which include:

Week 1:

  • apple pie porridge
  • smoothie bowl

Week 2: 

  • peanut butter/ chocolate granola apple bites
  • avocado on toast

Week 3:

  • healthy granola breakfast bars
  • buttermilk pancakes

Gintare Stancuite, a first year Culinary Arts student explains:

“Bringing what we have learned in the kitchen, creating healthy breakfast recipes for a real-life project really ties it all together and this project is so beneficial, it makes it all more worthwhile.”

Graphic design students on placement with the Community Engagement Team designed the recipe cards and with Michael and his students created short skills videos that will be shared with families.

The Ulster University Law Clinic/Social Justice Hub was established in 2013 as part of an LL.M programme in Access to Justice. The Clinic offers free, independent and confidential legal advice and representation, specialising in employment and social security issues, while also offering one-off advice on family law matters.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, the Clinic team have transformed its legal advice clinic into a remote service, offering video and telephone appointments for people who require specialist legal advice, while also dealing with many enquiries over email. The Clinic has two bases, one on the Belfast Campus and one based at Magee (The Social Justice Hub), in the North West, both clinics are run by practitioners and in normal times is supported by students from Ulster University’s School of Law.

Last week, the Law Clinic was recognised for its pro-bono work by the UK’s Attorney General when it was named runner up in the category of Best Contribution by a Law School in the UK for student pro-bono work in the LawWorks and UK Attorney General Student Awards 2021, as part of the University’s longstanding commitment to access to justice. Since the Clinic opened in 2013, staff and LLM Access to Justice students have provided thousands of hours of free advice and representation (equivalent to around £1.1m free legal advice and representation) in employment, social security and family law cases.