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Cooking nutritious meals for people in need

Oak Foundation Denmark / Partner story

Photo provided by Det Kærlige Måltid

When families go through difficult times such as life-threatening illnesses, simply making a meal can be too much to cope with. When Charlotte Thyberg lost her mother in 2016, she realised how desperately important it was to have been able to get healthy food for her. She decided to give up her fulltime job in 2018 and to start-up Det Kærlige Måltid, (which translates as The Loving Meal), a not-for-profit organisation that teaches young volunteers to make meals for people affected by acute life-threatening illness or trauma.

Working in the municipalities of Aarhus and Aalborg in Denmark, Det Kærlige Måltid cooks colourful, nutritious, and tasty meals and delivers them to the very people that need it the most – but who have the least energy to make them.  The meals are free of charge for the receiving families for eight weeks. “We hope that our meals can be a supplement to their medical treatment for them to recover better, and, that they add normality to an everyday life that is anything but normal,” says Charlotte.

Charlotte got her inspiration from Ceres, a US-based organisation that provides delicious, tailored meals made with love for those facing a serious illness like cancer, diabetes or congestive heart failure. Like Ceres, Det Kærlige Måltid teaches and empowers teenagers how to cook and eat healthy food, as well as, their ability to make a difference.

Det Kærlige Måltid also works with vulnerable youth who need a network and the opportunity to be able to help others, the chance to make friends, learn how to cook, and give back to the community and people in need. In cooperation with the municipalities, up to 20 per cent of the young volunteers are considered vulnerable. After six weeks and after having worked on all areas of the project, the young volunteers get a certificate.

To add a personal touch, the volunteers who made the food sit down and write a postcard for the families describing that they enjoyed cooking the meal, that they hope it tastes good. This adds a lovely personal touch to the service, and families report that they really appreciate it.

Being a volunteer at Det Kærlige Måltid is a fun and inspiring element in one’s everyday life and a place that is inclusive and feels safe, including for vulnerable youth. “One of the most essential things for us is that all our volunteers feel like exploring the world of food. We want to equip them with tools and competencies that demystify their approach to raw ingredients and methods,” says Charlotte. “We want to encourage them to skip the easy and fast solutions, and instead make healthy and nutritious meals that may even give them a healthier life.”

Det Kærlige Måltid is seeing firsthand how its efforts to help distressed families are making an impact, and how it is having a significant influence on the youth volunteers’ cooking competencies and likelihood to contribute to their local community. In 2020, Det Kærlige Måltid made 10,060 meals, despite the Covid-19 crisis, in comparison with 6,000 meals in 2019. 105 volunteers worked in the kitchen, and 27 volunteers delivered the food.

This grant falls under Oak Foundation Denmark, which believes that communities need to work for everyone, and that roadmaps to opportunity and systems that protect people are clear and available for all. To this end, Oak Foundation Denmark provides support to organisations in Denmark that come up with innovative solutions to improve the lives of socially vulnerable and marginalised groups at community levels. You can find out more about the programme here. To find out more about Det Kærlige Måltid, please check out its website and this short video. You can also take a look at its 2020 annual report here.