Global Grub – a youth participation story

Global Grub – a youth participation story

If you were to ask someone what Global Grub involves who had no prior knowledge of the project, they might correctly guess it involves food from different cultures. Less obvious is the project’s link to mental health, but a desire to deliver proactive work on mental health motivated the creation of Global Grub. As the title suggests, we also believe the project is a fine example of youth participation.

The Mental Health Connection

Mental Health Awareness Week, May 2021, we challenged the young people accessing our services to design a project based on the Five Ways to Wellbeing. The ‘Five Ways’ are five things that everyone can do to strengthen their mental wellbeing. In a way, this was partly an academic exercise: it’s main objective, to see if the young people understood the ‘Five Ways’ framework.

The young people presented their ideas to each other, and one stood out above all others – not least because the other young people in attendance also thought it was brilliant. Their idea was to learn to cook food from different cultures during the summer holidays – a time when many felt their mental health was at its lowest due to social isolation. They suggested a cooking project would help them to Connect with other people. By cooking food from different cultures, the young people would be Learning, and finally, through exposure to new dishes, they would be more Mindful due to a raised awareness of new flavours and scents. As the project has evolved, we have integrated new ad hoc ways of learning, for example this month (Easter ’24), the young people have the opportunity to learn to DJ and paint henna. An additional ‘way to wellbeing’ has also been integrated via being active: for example, this month, team games like dodgeball have also been integrated into the programme. In keeping with the broader ethos of Global Grub, these are young people’s ideas.


As must have been clear by now, youth voice was at the forefront of this project’s development. Building on the initial excitement from that first week when the young people had conceived the idea for Global Grub, we spent the following weeks both listening to the young people’s ideas so that they could shape the project (for example it was in one of those sessions that they came up with the name “Global Grub”), but also training the young people in skills so that they could assist with the search for funding to actually get the project off the ground.

Youth voice and participation has been at the forefront of the continued development of the project and has led to some special twists on its delivery, such as retiming the cooking sessions to coincide with Iftar during Ramadan. Other, modifications have included Global Grub picnics, where we take the food to the park and the young people assemble it themselves, making wraps and salads.

Another area of the project that young people have led is promotion. We have found the most effective approach is for young people to record pieces ‘talking to the camera’ promoting what is going to happen. These clips are then shared on range of social media platforms. Not only does this promote the project, but it also supports new skills development for the young people involved.


The young people had a vision for the project in May, but where could we find funding? Their idea coincided with the launch of an NHS Innovation Fund and Frimley ICB awarded the project £5,000. Meanwhile, Marcus Rashford successfully campaigned for young people entitled to Free School Meals to have similar rights during school holidays. The opportunities presented by these two funding streams allowed us to deliver our first Global Grub in July and August of that year. In subsequent years, the HAF Fund has been a vital source of funding, as has been generous donations from Stoke Park.

Key Ingredients

As is so often the case with youth work projects, the right staff are integral to the successful running of the project. Kevin Muhammad has been key to the success of the project. Kevin cut his teeth in a range of commercial kitchens before starting to run his own courses and he later became a home economics teacher at Windsor Boys’ School. Kevin has a fantastic rapport with the young people accessing our services. Finding any teacher who could teach the young people was challenging – most are looking forward to their holidays, when Global Grub takes place – so to find one with Kevin’s qualities was an astounding piece of luck.

Kevin has been ably supported by our youth workers and have spent enough time with Kevin that though he is unable to join us this Easter, they have learned enough from him to ‘hold the fort.’ This would have been unthinkable a couple of years ago and highlights how much he has built our capacity. Indeed, in December 2021, we were faced with that very challenge as Kevin tested positive for COVID on the eve of four days of Global Grub. Thankfully at this point we had 19 months experience of online youth work. We simply dropped off the ingredients at the young people’s homes and met them online, where Kevin felt well enough to instruct them how to cook on Zoom.

Another key ingredient of the project is a venue. This has not always been the easiest aspect of the project. Initially we put a makeshift kitchen into the YES Shop – a pop up venue in the local shopping centre. The venue was ideal for us – centrally located, with a recreation room off the main kitchen for activities. When the Queensmere shut this side of the shopping centre we needed to look further afield. We relocated to Weekes Drive Community Centre in Cippenham. This took us away from the centre but was an easier location for pick-ups and drop offs. It was also prohibitively expensive. It led us to our latest destination in Kedermister Park, Langley, a venue owned by the Guides. The venue has a sizeable kitchen and a decent sized hall we can use for various activities. The park has a reputation for violence and antisocial behaviour so there is also a sense that we are in the right location, to bring something positive to an area which needs it.


We have a lot of equipment, and this is an ingredient which cannot be underestimated. The key reason for this, is that if the project was simply about giving the young people food, a few industrial sized pans would have sufficed. But the project has always sought to ensure the young people can reproduce the dishes at home, and if they were only familiar with, for example, making a small contribution to an industrial process, they couldn’t recreate the recipes. Instead, every young person goes through all the steps themselves, and if that means that seven young people are cooking at the same time and it’s a recipe requiring two pans, we need fourteen pans in total. It is easy to see how an abundance of equipment is important.

The Recipes

Global Grub is run during the school holidays in Easter (one week), Summer (four weeks) and Christmas (one week). The dishes are determined in consultation with young people. They create a long list and Kevin, Sanna and Aida establish what can be achieved in a one-hour cooking session.

We had intended to create a cookbook for the young people, of the recipes they created. However, the young people told us quite directly that any such books would gather dust and not be looked at. Rather, they advocated for the creation of TikToks which would allow the young people to remember and follow the recipes in future, in a much more interesting way. At the time of writing, Global Grub recipes have attracted over a thousand views!

Famous Supporters and Royal Participation

As noted above, the project was no stranger to leveraging to power of social media, most significantly with promotional work on YouTube and recipes on TikTok. We also used Instagram, Facebook, and X to advertise the project. Marcus Rashford made one of our Global Grub tweets our most shared tweet ever when he retweeted it from his official account, resulting in over 230,000 views. Even more impressively, in January 2023, HRH Prince William visited Together As One to learn more about our work and took part in a Global Grub cooking session.

HRH Prince William gets involved in Global Grub cooking with Inaaya and Daisha.

HRH Prince William gets involved in Global Grub cooking with Inaaya and Daisha.

Views of Third Parties

Donna Sheldon visited Global Grub on behalf of the Department for Education in August 2023. We were delighted she took the time to really engage with the young people and joined us for some food. She was impressed with that she saw and invited Together As One to be a part of a best practice Bite Size Learning clip for HAF Providers. The clip can be seen below with the focus on Slough from 12:48:


Global Grub pre-dates our move to the fantastic Upshot system, which analyses data so straightforwardly for us. However, we can take 2023 as a snapshot to give readers an understanding of the scale of young people’s involvement and the diversity of the young people who have chosen to get involved. 128 young people took part in Global Grub. The average age of the participants was 14. The young people were from six different faiths and eighteen different ethnicities. 32 of the young people indicated they had SEND or a mental health condition.

At any given time, we struggle to exceed 7 or 8 young people in the kitchen. The optimum number of participants is probably slightly fewer at 5 or 6. The project has grown in popularity and though the young people who initially conceived the idea have started to move on, the new young people have shown a fantastic appetite for it to continue.


During the first Global Grub we asked young people to rate themselves against these key questions:

How would you rate…

  • your ability to cook different dishes?
  • knowledge of different cultures?
  • knowledge of nutrition?
  • confidence in communicating with people you don’t know?

We also used the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale to try to gain an understand of the project’s impact on mental health. Across the four areas outlined above and all but two of the areas covered in WEMWBS, the young people attested to an improvement.

Key Ingredients
  • Spaces for youth voice to inform project development.
  • Staff who are able to draw on youth work skills, as well as food technology
  • A spacious kitchen preferably with multiple ovens/hobs.
  • Plenty of equipment – the kinds of which you might find in your own home, rather than large commercial pans.
Newspaper coverage of ’90s tensions in Slough

Newspaper coverage of ’90s tensions in Slough

Together As One (Aik Saath) was founded due to tensions in Slough between young Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims during the late 1990s. The scale and severity of the tensions sent shockwaves through our community. These newspaper clipping shed some light on what happened during a dark chapter in Slough’s history.

These clippings are from microfiches at The Curve (Slough Library). Consequently, the scans are not very high quality but we can still learn a lot from them.


Newspaper Headline: Violent Clashes Between Gangs

Newspaper Headline: Violent Clashes Between Gangs, The Slough Observer, 20th September 1996

  • The Sikh young people identified themselves as Shere (Lions) of the Punjab. The initials “SP” were graffitied extensively over Slough, often on roadsigns pointing towards Chalvey.
  • Part of the article focuses on the ‘neglect’ of young people by the County Council – Slough became a unitary authority in April 1998, with the abolition of Berkshire County Council.


Headline: Peace pleas after night of mayhem

Headline: Peace pleas after night of mayhem, Slough Express, 1st May 1997

This article was published several months later. The severity of the violence involved is clear with a local businessman stating that he had seen “swords, baseball bats, axes, clubs and knives.”


Headline: WPC saves severed hand in frozen veg

Headline: WPC saves severed hand in frozen veg, Slough Express, 5th November 1998

This article was published almost two years after the first and the level of violence involved is shocking. In addition to the severed hand in the headline, there are also details of a broken ankle. Interestingly, one of the victims is aged 38 – older than we might have assumed when the violence has generally been characterised as being driven by young people. The police cited a minor driving incident as being the spark behind the violence, indicating the extent of community tensions at the time.

Headline: Plea for peace after race-hate riot

Headline: Plea for peace after race-hate riot, Slough Observer, 6th November 1998

This is a piece focused on the sister of one of the men involved. She calls for peace and a de-escalation of the conflict. Perhaps calls for an end to the violence were more pronounced from women at the time. Certainly, Dr Dudley Weeks, the international mediator who advocated for the establishment of Aik Saath, felt that a gender perspective and the empowerment of women might help resolve the tensions.


Headline: Gangs blamed for Chalvey flare-up

Headline: Gangs blamed for Chalvey flare-up, Slough Express, 1st May 1999

This article was published almost three years after the first, underlying how protracted the tensions were. There is also the suggestion within the article that the attacks were quite targeted, raising the possibility that the tensions had evolved into a dispute between two select gangs with specific memberships, rather than a free-for-all involving ‘just anyone’ from the communities.