SERC Team Finalist in Beacon Awards

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24 November 2023

Paul Mercer, Elizabeth Major, Brian Magill, Clare Gillen and Paul Monaghan

South Eastern Regional College (SERC) has been shortlisted for a prestigious Beacon Award 2023-24.

The Hospitality and Culinary Arts team, led by Paul Mercer, are finalists for the Real World Learning Award for their ongoing Food Poverty Project. The team radically adapted their project-based learning (PBL) focus from solely business enterprise to fifty percent social enterprise work, in response to the extreme food poverty in their local communities.

Paul Mercer, Deputy Head of School of Hospitality said, “Our ongoing Food Poverty Project works with food banks, charities, businesses and local councils, to provide unique learning opportunities for students in designing, planning, and implementing culinary projects to address food poverty in the community."

He added, “Our PBL social enterprise projects have included providing over 2,000 fresh and pre-prepared Christmas meals for users of Bangor, Downpatrick, Lisburn, and Newtownards Foodbanks, and 400 three-course Christmas dinners for vulnerable people in the North Down community. We have held demonstrations on how to feed a family of four on £5 funded by Tesco; and many other smaller scale charity events such as the Cash4Kids coffee morning fundraiser. We have also started a food education programme; getting our students to produce low-cost family favourite recipes and supporting demonstration videos, which were shared with the community and was supported by Ards and North Down Borough Council."

Paul concluded, “We are delighted to be shortlisted for this award which recognises what can be achieved through PBL, social enterprise and a strong network of motivated community partners.”

SERC is the only Northern Ireland finalist for the Association of Colleges (AoC) Beacon Awards which celebrate and showcase best practice and innovation and highlight excellence in UK further education colleges. Winners will be announced at an Awards celebration in Spring 2024. Visit www.serc.ac.uk to unlock your future #BetterOffAtSERC.