Alumni Cynthia Tooley awarded MBE

4 January 2023

Congratulations to our Alumni Cynthia Tooley, who was made an MBE for services to business, mentoring, and charity in the New Year Honours List.

Cynthia, originally from Nigeria, studied a Masters of Business Administration at the University of Buckingham. She is now a successful entrepreneur and TV cookery show judge on Food Network Canada and has appeared on cookery programmes on BBC2 and Channel 4.

Cynthia Tooley outside Jedidiah, her free food pantry

Cynthia founded free food pantry, Jedidiah

Cynthia founded Jedidiah Pantry, on Castle Street, a free food pantry that gives away surplus food from the town’s supermarkets to anyone who is struggling to afford food. On Jedidiah, Cynthia states:

“I’m grateful and honoured and a little bit stunned. The charity is a passion God put in my heart and the execution didn’t really make much sense because when I started I had neither enough money nor did I know if the need really was there enough to warrant large scale action. So I started with food parcels for 100 families. And for a while we literally existed from food parcel round to food parcel round.

Two and half years in and we’re in more than one site and we’ve covered millions of meals for nearly 7000 families if you add those who visit the pantry to the families we supported via parcels and then this- an MBE. I don’t know if anyone is as bemused as I am at the constant turn of events.”

Cynthia also set up cookery classes for people who want to learn basic skills but cannot afford to pay for classes. She is also running a Charity Baking Academy, offering 10-week courses for those who want to learn the skills to make cakes as a business.

She was awarded a British Empire Medal in 2017 for services to business and the community, after she began mentoring teenagers at schools and universities about becoming entrepreneurs.