A journey of empowerment and advocacy

School meals research event

A Journey of Empowerment and Advocacy: My Experience with the Free School Meals Allowance Project, by Zara 

Aged just 15, attending Netherhall Learning Campus in Huddersfield, I embarked on a remarkable journey with the FSM Allowance Project.

This initiative was more than just an exploration of food and sustainability; it was a transformative experience that took me from school meals to the hallowed halls of Westminster.

The project tasked us, young researchers, with managing a weekly budget of £2.50 for a healthy, sustainable meal while documenting its filling nature and overall health benefits.

Event highlights

Months later, the culmination led us to Westminster, where I had the privilege of not only being part of the event but also having my poem, "It's Us Eating the Food," selected for recitation.

The anticipation surged as the train from Leeds propelled us closer to London. Excitement and nerves entwined within me.

But before the grand event, a workshop graced my path, honing my poetry recitation skills and bolstering my confidence - a fortuitous preparation that proved invaluable.

Upon reaching London, navigating the underground tube led us to Westminster - a momentous arrival. The aura was bustling yet inviting.

The Food Foundation team greeted us warmly, and to my surprise, the research books boasted my visage on their covers!

School meals research event

Personalised lanyards with our names guided us to tables labelled with our school's name. Settling in, sipping drinks, and rehearsing helped ease my nerves amidst the growing crowd.

Guests started trickling in, and their curiosity brought them to our tables. Engaging conversations ensued, discussing our research endeavours and impressions.

Soon, it was time for the students to present their findings. As they did, MPs roamed among us, eager to understand our perspectives and capture moments through photographs.

Then came my moment - a chance to recite my poem in front of esteemed guests. The applause and cheers that followed reverberated through the hall, filling me with immense pride and joy.

Zara Sultana, the MP of South Coventry, personally commended my poem, sparking a conversation about my aspirations to utilise poetry to raise awareness about my culture and homeland, Balochistan.

As the event drew to a close, goodbyes were exchanged, marking the end of an impactful day.

Reflecting on the experience, I am convinced that this event, brimming with significance and purpose, was an incredible platform for advocacy and learning.

The FSM Allowance Project didn't just teach me about sustainable meals; it empowered me to amplify my voice through poetry, connecting me with influential figures and instilling a deeper sense of purpose.

It was an odyssey that transcended food choices - it was about empowerment, advocacy, and the realisation that every voice, no matter how young, holds the power to effect change.

This event wasn't merely a moment in time; it was a stepping stone in my journey, propelling me toward a future where I hope to continue advocating for causes close to my heart, using poetry as my voice, and making a difference, one verse at a time.

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