After a long day at work, college, sports training, or whatever other day-to-day activities that eat up your time and energy, the last thing you want to do is spend a large amount of time trying to prepare a meal. As the college year kicks up, you find yourself choosing more and more often to go for a boojum or a frozen pizza, and less and less often for a home-cooked, healthy meal. According to the Healthy Ireland Survey 2015-2016, only “42% of those aged under 35 mainly eat homemade meals cooked from scratch, compared with 72% of those aged 65 and older”.
I get it, I really do. I, myself, was recently a full-time student, and now I work full-time while also playing/coaching a sport and working. I know how difficult it can be to motivate yourself to buy fresh ingredients, let alone take the time or energy to cook a meal for yourself. However, I also know that nothing beats the feeling of self-satisfaction that comes with taking many small ingredients to create a healthy, filling, and delicious home-cooked meal. Not even Boojum.
Despite the numerous TV cooking shows and online recipe sites, there haven’t been too many cooking and food-awareness programmes geared for people aged 18-30 years, and which target a specific location. Until now–just recently launched, the online food-preparation project called Just Cook, Galway is described by it’s founder, Siri Rosendahl, as “a grass-roots project to make food planning, shopping, and cooking an easier, more affordable, and less stressful option than take-away.” To Rosendahl, the aim of this project is to, “…see it as part of a community health movement helping to make cooking the norm again, particularly among 18-30 year olds who tend to gravitate more towards pre-prepared foods and take-away. The idea isn’t to make you a master chef, but just a little more likely to put down the take-away menu, and a little more likely to pick up a frying pan.”
Rosendahl, a 24-year-old American living in Galway for the past few years, experienced these habits of choosing pre-prepared food and take-away in her roommates while at college, as well as after. Seeing these choices spurred her to begin to try and make a change, “I worked for an organization called Healthy Monadnock in Keene, New Hampshire (USA) before I moved to Galway, and through this experience I developed a passion for community health work”. Rosendahl just recently finished her M.A. in Public Advocacy and Activism from NUI, Galway in 2017. Here, she continued to expand her interest in healthy food living, “…there was a lot of flexibility in what we could focus on for our dissertation, so my research gravitated towards digging deeper into food skills programmes around the world. From the lessons I learned speaking with the founders of projects like Cook it Up! and The Cooking Project, as well as reading up on the Healthy Food for All in Ireland, I realized the impact community cooking programmes could have”.
And thus, Just Cook, Galway was born. The site includes web resources, weekly recipes with local shopping lists and step-by-step instructions, and relevant information on what is both offered and in-season in Galway. Rosendahl has also emphasised solutions for the possible problem of wastefulness, “With each recipe a few skills are learned that can be carried forward. I also include ideas for what to do with leftover ingredients so people aren’t left with extra veg rotting in their fridge because they don’t know what to do with it.” Just Cook is the perfect resource for college-age students and newly minted working-life people. The benefits to this project are infinite, “Learning these skills can help someone improve their physical and mental health, and gain confidence. I see the impacts being not only health related, but also a way to reduce food waste, food packaging waste, and the carbon footprint of transporting food that’s out of season”. The first recipe post-launch has already been posted: a simple, but tasty, baked chicken and roast vegetables. Yum.
So, next time you think about running out for a frozen pizza, or next time you catch yourself looking at a take-away menu on Deliveroo, try to instead run out for some fresh veg and meat, or else look up a recipe online instead of a take-away menu. Guaranteed that the meals you cook for yourself with ingredients you bought will make you happier, prouder, healthier, and save you money in the long-run. “In an ideal world, I’d love to see the impact of the programme being so widespread in Galway that if I was at a first-year’s apartment in Corrib Village, their fridge would be filled with fresh veg and real foods. I’m already delighted with some of the responses I’ve gotten from people . . . I did a soft launch at the start of January 2018 and already have 45 sign-ups to the newsletter. If even just these people cooked one more meal a week I’d be delighted!” says Rosendahl.
So, go out there and get cooking!
** If you are interested in signing up for the weekly shopping list and recipes, you do that Here. If you are interested in joining the team to help Just Cook run, grow, and develop, you can email Siri directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org. **