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Celebrity chef honours North Kensington resident with National Lottery Award

12th October 2022

Celebrity chef and TV personality Lisa Faulkner has honoured an inspirational North Kensington resident with a coveted National Lottery Award in honour of her incredible work in her community by educating and providing residents with the skills to grow their own food.

Lisa Faulkner presenting Sal Chebbah with her National Lottery Award

Lisa Faulkner presented Sal Chebbah with her award today after it was announced they had won the Environment category in the 2022 National Lottery Awards.

The National Lottery Awards are the annual celebration of the inspirational individuals and groups who do extraordinary things with the help of National Lottery funding.

A judging panel whittled down more than 1,300 incredible nominees down to just six winners and Sal faced stiff competition to become the winner in this year’s Environment category.

Sal first discovered her love for mushrooms when she had health problems. The consultants advised her to change her diet, as well as to look into medicinal mushrooms for their high nutrition and health benefits.

She was then introduced to the Chaga mushroom, which is believed to have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This sparked her journey researching into other species of mushrooms, discovering their nutritional benefits. She was keen to understand the health, as well as the sustainable, benefits of mushrooms, and from there she fell in love with them and was keen to share more of what she had learnt with others.

Sal, a North Kensington resident herself, is now affectionately known as the ‘Mushroom Queen’ on the Lancaster West Estate in West London. The community lies in the shadow of Grenfell Tower and after the tragedy in 2017 she was determined to bring the residents together in efforts to garden, grow and make the area more sustainable as a way of healing.

After running workshops for a couple of years, both online and on-site, the residents then asked for a mushroom garden to be installed in the grounds of the estate, from there the project Growing with North Kensington, was born.

Sal with her National Lottery Award

As project manager of Growing with North Kensington, Sal - who also runs educational mushrooming company Elysian Roots - is determined to show people that you can grow your own fresh food even if you live in an urban tower block. Mushrooms require little natural light and are easy to grow, while being a nutritious source of food.

She received funding from the National Lottery through the Centre for Innovation in Voluntary Action, which meant that she has been able to continue educating residents and beyond on the benefits of mushroom growth. She provides regular workshops on gardening and growing to pass on skills to residents, to ensure everyone has access to healthy, affordable and sustainable food. These workshops reach over 100 people across North Kensington and Sal is very passionate about the way food can bring people together, along with the therapeutic benefits of growing your own. 

Sal said: “It’s such an honour to have been nominated for a National Lottery Award, let alone win it! I’m absolutely gobsmacked. The support from the National Lottery has allowed Growing with North Kensington to educate the community on how you can grow your own fresh food, in an urban environment.

“The demand for food banks has grown exponentially and we realised that there was an opportunity to bring people together to provide them with the skills to learn how to grow their own food source, such as mushrooms. They are magical and are the future of food - that is my belief.

“Not only does this have therapeutic benefits but it can combat loneliness by encouraging people to get together to learn, as well as giving people access to an easy, sustainable and affordable way to get food.

“After the Grenfell tragedy everybody wanted to bring the community together to heal, to make the area more sustainable and to help reduce the carbon footprint. A lot of projects are operating in North Kensington to empower its residents and I’m proud to say I am one of them.

“I would love for everyone to introduce mushrooms to their diets and to realise the powers the fungi world has in terms of the environment and general wellbeing. I am very proud that National Lottery players have supported me on this beautiful journey. Hopefully we can continue to increase awareness and knowledge around the environment and climate change to benefit generations to come.”

Lisa Faulkner presenting Sal Chebbah with her National Lottery Award

Celebrity chef and TV personality Lisa Faulkner travelled to Second Home in Holland Park to present Sal with her trophy and to congratulate her on her achievement.

She commented: “What Sal has accomplished through Growing with North Kensington is nothing short of incredible. She has provided residents with the skills to grow their own food from home, which at the moment during this difficult period, is an invaluable skill. Her dedication and love for mushrooms is inspirational and the fact that she has brought the community together through this passion is amazing.

“I am delighted to be able to present Sal with this award and I’m very excited to see what she will do next; inspiring future generations on nutritious food sources and ultimately helping to reduce our impact on the environment. National Lottery players should be proud to have supported such a wonder initiative.”

Winners in each category received a £5,000 cash prize for their organisation and a National Lottery Awards trophy.

Thanks to National Lottery players, more than £30 million goes to good causes across the UK every week, which in turn helps people like Sal continue to carry out incredible work in their communities.