Football foundation and TV chef team up to provide food help

Middlesbrough Football Club Foundation has revealed the extent of the food help it has provided for the people of East Cleveland since lockdown.

It has delivered nearly 9,500 breakfasts, packed lunches and hot meals to local children, as well as 1,500 meals to key workers. Thousands of them were prepared by TV MasterChef quarter-finalist Matei Baran.

The figures were provided by MFC Foundation 12 months after it opened a permanent base in Loftus with a promise to make a difference.

“We obviously didn’t know then what was in store,” said Marc McPhillips, the Foundation’s East Cleveland manager. “But we are just happy that we were in a position to help.”

The scale of the Foundation’s support emerged as a project has been revived which uses cooking to bring together people affected by mental health problems and isolation.

It is called Kitchen Therapy and was launched by Chef Matei and the MFC Foundation last year. In just 12 weeks they transformed a group of cooking novices into chefs capable of catering for a restaurant-full of paying customers.

Matei Baran and the first Kitchen Therapy team at Al Forno in Middlesbrough

Matei Baran and the first Kitchen Therapy team at Al Forno in Middlesbrough

In February the second Kitchen Therapy programme – attended every week by nearly 30 people – began in East Cleveland. It had to stop because of the lockdown but is now resuming under strict COVID-secure measures at the Lingdale Youth and Community Centre.

Chef Matei, who comes from Romania but has made his home in the North East, said: “Food seemed to become even more important during the lockdown, not just because people couldn’t go to their favourite restaurant or buy certain ingredients from their local supermarket.

“Many parents and children, particularly in areas like East Cleveland, were deprived of their normal support networks and that meant they were in very real danger of going hungry. The response of the Foundation to that crisis was amazing.”

As well as helping to feed families, Chef Matei prepared hot meals, afternoon teas and food packages for care homes in Brotton, Loftus and Skelton. He provided tasty treats for teachers and staff at primary schools in Boosbeck, Loftus and Skelton. The MFC Foundation delivered his food to key workers at Brotton Hospital, GP Practices in Brotton, Loftus and Skelton, Loftus Police Station and the Carlin How Ambulance Station.

“We just wanted to say thank you and give them something to take their minds off what they were having to deal with – even just for a few minutes,” said the chef.

“We have seen the difference the Kitchen Therapy project has made in the two previous times we have backed it. We’re hopeful it will be able to make a difference again,” concluded Marc McPhillips.

The Kitchen Therapy project at Lingdale is running for nine weeks every Monday from 11am to 1pm. It is free to take part.  Anybody interested should contact Gary Walton of the MFC Foundation on 01287 640079 or