25 June 2020


The Ministry of Food Leeds project which has taught over 5,000 Leeds folk to cook is celebrating ten years of operation. Based in Leeds Kirkgate Market, Jamie’s Ministry of Food Leeds teaches basic cooking skills in a friendly environment alongside shopping and budgeting tips and healthy eating advice. It is estimated that the project has used 16,530 eggs, squeezed 13,240 lemons and opened 13,770 tins of tomatoes in its first ten years, teaching a range of cooking skills from pizza making to roast dinners. 990 kilos of sustainable fish has also been used, all sourced from market traders.

The project has been evaluated by the University of Leeds and had results published in Public Health Nutrition Journal. Evidence shows that people attending the 8-week course gain the skills and confidence to cook from scratch more often, decrease unhealthy food intake and increase healthy eating behaviours.

Not only are the health-related outcomes impressive, but Service Manager Matthew Newsome says that the added benefits of joining a course are inspiring. “Here at the food centre we see people of all ages and backgrounds coming together to cook and eat, but also making friends, overcoming difficulties and finding the confidence to make other changes in their lives. It’s a fun and friendly centre and we offer something for everyone whether they are a complete beginner or just looking for some new ideas to feed the family”.

Leeds City Council have continued to invest in the project despite immense financial pressure in recent years. 

Public Health Improvement Specialist Emma Strachan said:

“Every year the results show significant improvements in key health indicators and we have individual case studies which show participants are benefiting from weight loss, healthier lifestyles and increased confidence. I really am very proud to have been involved in this amazing project for the last 10 years, to see the service grow and change and most importantly to serve the different communities across Leeds. For me, MoF Leeds is a project that showcases our city’s priorities in action by supporting the development of a healthier and more equal city for all.”


Councillor Rebecca Charlwood said:

“A key public health priority for the council is to help people lead a healthy lifestyle. Funding Ministry of Food Leeds helps to make this a reality. With dedicated and highly trained staff in an attractive city centre site, we have been able to showcase how easy it is eat healthily -on a budget – with the fantastic variety of produce that is available at Leeds Kirkgate Market.”


Rosanna Bluett Food Education Manager at Jamie Oliver said:

‘’We are immensely proud of the Ministry of Food project in Leeds. It is through fantastic local partnerships like this that we can grow and expand the Ministry of Food Programme to help more communities. The project staff and volunteers have delivered the programme to the highest quality and really transformed the lives of so many in the city through learning to cook over the past 10 years. Now more than ever learning to cook and eating healthily is of the utmost importance and we look forward to working with the team in Leeds and seeing the impact of the project grow in the future.’’ 


Operated by local charity Zest Leeds, Ministry of Food Leeds is a project funded by Leeds City Council and now forms the Cook Well element of the city’s One You Leeds project managed by Reed Wellbeing. 


Partnership Manager Christine Lunn from Reed Wellbeing said:

‘’We have had the pleasure of nearly 3 years now of working in collaboration with Zest, Leeds City Council and Jamie Oliver Group to deliver the Ministry of Food programme to people in Leeds. Forming part of One You Leeds Integrated Healthy Living Service, it is a hugely valuable, fun and practical part of that service. Our participants regularly share life changing stories following the courses so it is no surprise to us that it has reached 10 years and we are proud to have joined the journey!”


Zest is a Leeds charity addressing health inequalities and social isolation through activities which improve physical, mental, social, emotional and economic wellbeing. Zest work collectively and collaboratively with some of the most deprived communities in the city where social inequalities are greatest, to promote healthier lifestyles and enable fulfilling lives. 

About Rosanna Bluett