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Family offers free home-made soup

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: February 26, 2014

NOURISHING: Michelle Toogood-Johnson, cooking some of her soup.

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A SOUP-ER family is giving away their home-made dish for free to people in St Austell who are battling with chronic fatigue syndrome.

After seven years suffering with ME (chronic fatigue syndrome) Michelle Toogood-Johnson and her family knows how difficult day-to-day life can become.

But the keen cook and former maternity nurse to families including an A-list Brit actress has decided to help those with similar conditions stay healthy by providing a free home-made soup service.

The 44-year-old, who moved with her family from Northamptonshire to Trewoon in December, came up with the idea after always cooking more soup than the family need.

"We cook a lot of soups and I jokingly said we need to start giving some to the builders who were working on our home at the time and it just developed from that.

"I realised there are people we could actually help and it's also a great way to meet new people.

"We thought it would be great to share our extra helpings with others in real need, instead of making the family eat the same soups to the end of the pot or enriching our compost heap."

"This is my way of giving something back and it's a much-needed service."

Mrs Toogood-Johnson who has two small children, Alex, 6, and Hannah, 5, with husband Ian, 51, said their life as a family was turned upside down when her health deteriorated.

"I was diagnosed in 2008 but it took two years for me to get my diagnosis. It became so severe I became literally bed-bound and was in so much pain I couldn't move," she said.

Her condition became so bad that she was tested for multiple sclerosis, had to give up driving for a time and could hardly hold a pen.

During this time her husband Ian, who worked as a research scientist at the University of Oxford, would return home from work an hour and a half away and take on caring for his wife and children.

Mr Toogood-Johnson said: "I'd get home from work and the house would be in darkness, Michelle would not be well, and everyone needed feeding.

"I have always cooked and it was easy to pick up the reins and do some home cooking but some people don't have that benefit."

The Toogood-Johnsons have already garnered support from across the UK and after submitting their registration for a food business at home to Cornwall Council and passing the authority's health and safety regulations, Extra Helpings Soups is due to launch on Friday, March 14.

Mrs Toogood-Johnson said: "Chronic fatigue is not a lifestyle choice. It's not about not working and living off benefits. A lot of people with chronic fatigue are people who have had very successful careers, who have a good income and they end up with nothing and there's very limited support."

"They [the soups] will be cooked in our kitchen, from vegetables grown in our garden wherever possible, and chilled, refrigerated and put into cool bags and chill boxes and delivered personally once or twice a week on a Tuesday and/or Friday. Anyone with a chronic illness will benefit from these fresh and nutritious soups that are easily digestible, which makes them ideal."

Anyone in St Austell with a chronic fatigue illness can sign up for Extra Helpings by calling 07704 861767 or e-mail mtoogoodjohnson@yahoo.com

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