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Just one courgetto cake - give it to me

PUBLISHED: 18:23 30 May 2008 | UPDATED: 15:07 07 September 2010

Mum Helen Tindale is on the road with a healthy alternative to the ice cream van, writes Matilda Moreton You ve heard of an ice cream van. But have you heard of a Nice Green Van? This is meals on wheels with a difference. Brainchild of Helen Tindale, a

Mum Helen Tindale is on the road with a healthy alternative to the ice cream van, writes Matilda Moreton

You've heard of an ice cream van. But have you heard of a Nice Green Van?

This is meals on wheels with a difference.

Brainchild of Helen Tindale, a successful garden designer and Primrose Hill mum, it not only sells the most delicious organic ice cream but also provides packed lunches and freshly-cooked ready meals for supper.

"It's so parents don't have to reach for the freezer - and kids are intercepted before they get to the sweet shop," explains Helen.

"I want to provide something kids will find irresistible like chocolate cake - but a healthy version, like courgette chocolate cake or orange lentil cake, really nice muffins, fairy cakes, little apple pies - things young people will want to eat."

The real point of the Nice Green Van is to raise money for nice green healthy eating.

It is "literally an engine for change", proudly states its website.

Any profits raised from the van's sales are invested in its sibling venture - Helen's real passion, called Kids' Food Matters.

As the name clearly states, this is about culinary and nutritional education and it is achieved through after-school cookery clubs.

The enterprise came about as a result of a raid on St Paul's primary school in Primrose Hill in May 2004.

Mothers opened the freezers, desperate to find out who was supplying the meat for their children's lunches after being denied information on the subject for five months by Scholarest, the school's caterers.

These "ninja mums", as named by the headteacher, found that their children's lunches contained chicken from Thailand condemned as unfit for human consumption by the EU after outbreaks of Asian bird flu.

Scholarest's contract ended as the mothers' group demanded that higher standards were met.

Jamie Oliver's campaign was launched a few months later and the rest was history - though very much on-going history.

Since that drama, Helen has been devoting herself to increasing awareness in schools of healthy - and unhealthy - eating.

She ran a consultancy for a nursery where processed food was served at school and fizzy drinks and crisps were given as a pick-me-up.

This was leading to numerous disorders, including ADHD and sleep disorders.

The staff - cooks included - remarked on the impact of the changed diet, brought about as a result of Helen's advice to the school.

This led to children's improved concentration spans and calmer behaviour in class as well as improved sleep patterns.

"I really would have loved to get a mobile kitchen for those schools without one and to get celebrity cooks in and run cookery-related events," she says.

But she would have needed a big green truck for that and all she could afford at the time was the van, bought on eBay.

Behind the van is a nice green trailer, containing herbs and vegetables.

"It's a mobile allotment - a big planter filled with salad leaves, beans, tomatoes and aubergine - whatever is going to grow in the summer term and give children a chance to see the whole cycle of production," she explains.

This modular system can be dropped off into any school playground with instructions and seedlings to grow everything needed for the cookery club.

"After having run the consultancy and two cookery clubs, I wanted to do something a bit more fun and visible - to raise the profile and for a bit of light relief," she says.

And light relief it certainly is - with its lime green livery and bright white interior, jazzed up with garlands of flowers and iced biscuits.

"The van is a joy - people come running when they hear the music - we have 64 chimes," says Helen.

So for the classic tune of "Just One Cornetto", why not substitute one piece of courgette-o-chocolate cake-o.

o The Nice Green Van will be at Camden Green Fair in Regent's Park on Sunday June 1 from noon to 7pm. It will also be at Marylebone Summer Fair, Marylebone High Street, in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust on Sunday June 15 from 11am to 5pm and the Innocent Village Fete in Regent's Park on Saturday and Sunday August 2 and 3, from 11am to 7pm on both days. The van can also be booked for private parties and events. Call Helen on 07779 026 052 or email helen@kidsfood matters.org.

The website is at www.kidsfoodmatters.org.Police have named the 17-year-old Somalia boy who died in hospital after being shot in the head in Camden Town on Saturday night.

He has been formally identified as Sharmaarke Hassan, reported to be a member of the notorious Money Squad, one of a number of Camden gangs believed to be involved drug dealing.

A 16-year-old boy has been arrested on suspicion of his murder.

Sharmaarke Hassan died in hospital on Wednesday night four days after he was gunned down in Gilby's Yard, near Camden Lock, around 11pm.

He was taken to hospital after the shooting in a critical condition and was placed on a life support machine.

But late on Wednesday he became the 15th teenager to die in a violent attack on the streets of London since the turn of the year.

Police say they are keeping an open mind as to whether the killing was connected to another shooting in Archway the previous day.

At around 3am on Friday morning armed police responded to an emergency call to find a boy with a gunshot wound to his stomach on Girdlestone Walk.

A 17-year-old male and an 18-year-old male were arrested close to the Archway scene.

The incidents are thought to be related to a turf war between drug dealers of African origin.

Police in Camden have condemned the wave of violence. Superintendent Paul Morris said: "This is a shocking tragedy. We are stepping up patrols in the borough to reassure the community, and specialist officers are investigating the incident.

"In addition, we are working closely with community groups to offer any other reassurance which we can."

Anyone with information to help the enquiries should call 020-8733 4774 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.


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