Ben feeding children’s ability to learn at Sheffield Food Festival

Ben Harper of Cellar Space
Ben Harper of Cellar Space
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We look forward to Sheffield Food Festival 2012 with a series celebrating the city’s unsung food heroes…

Ben Harper is a qualified teacher with a zest for life and a gift for motivating young people.

He grew up in Totley, attended Silverdale School and graduated from Sheffield University. But, inspired by a gap year with an inner-city church in Birmingham, he has devoted his career to working with asylum seekers, refugees and disadvantaged families.

Now 34, he has spent the last year launching a catering project for disengaged youngsters in the Burngreave area.

Food production company Food-i (the ‘i’ stands for ‘inclusion) is an offshoot of the Cellar Space centre, which aims to build self-esteem, confidence, social and learning skills. Each Monday and Tuesday during term time the youngsters descend on the Cellar Space kitchens and produce a range of healthy, tasty meals under the watchful eyes of qualified caterers.

Not only do they tuck in themselves, but they also package dishes into single portions, chill them and sell them to a list of enthusiastic customers via schools and workplaces across the area.

“After being up and running for a year, we now have a full complement of young people and we are continually striving to get the balance right between therapeutic inclusion work and food production and sales,” says Ben, Cellar Space manager, who gained his first experience of the food industry at his dad’s fish and chip shop in Shalesmoor.

Food-i is currently taking a summer break but will be back in September. See: