A national charity is urging families in Wales to reclaim mealtimes together – by pledging to join its annual event to get the nation cooking.

The Children’s Food Trust, the national charity on a mission to get children eating well, is challenging families, friends, schools and organisations across the country to take part in its largest mass cooking event to date, the Big Cookathon 2016 on 22-25 April.

The annual event, now in its eighth year, aims to get families cooking nutritious, easy recipes from scratch instead of opting for unhealthy and expensive ready meals or takeaways. This year’s event, sponsored by The Tesco Eat Happy Project, challenges families to try making Big Cookathon Cottage Pie.

Gareth Wyn Jones, North Wales hill farmer, food champion and TV presenter, says: “There’s no better feeling than sitting down for a meal you’ve cooked with your family – it means the world to me and my kids. But as a country, we’re not making the time to eat together often enough.

“Food should be a joy, not a chore and that’s why we’ve got to show our children how much fun it is to cook and eat together as often as we can. They need to understand where their food comes from but also how to love the experience of putting a great meal on the plate.”

Children’s Food Trust CEO, Linda Cregan, says: “This year’s recipe takes its inspiration from a time when meals were eaten by families around a table at home, without the distraction of mobile phones and computer games. The Big Cookathon is one way to get back a bit of that precious family time.

“We want to show the nation how easy it is to cook and how much fun they can have in the kitchen. Learning to cook is an essential life skill and when children eat better, they do better.”

Since 2007, the Children’s Food Trust has helped more than 3 million people learn to cook through their Let’s Get Cooking network, which is the largest in England.

More than 25,000 people joined in the event last year, cooking the Trust’s Speedy Biryani, in kitchens everywhere, from schools and churches to hospitals and homes. More than 70,000 people saw pledges to cook through social media, as hundreds of young amateur chefs shared photos of themselves cooking at home with family and friends online.

Josh Hardie, Corporate Responsibility Director at Tesco, said: “The Tesco Eat Happy Project is our long-term commitment to help children have a better relationship with food.

“The Big Cookathon is such a good fit for the Project – it’s for all ages and abilities, it brings families and communities together, it’s great fun and it ultimately helps children live happier, healthier lives.”

To get involved visit the website www.bigcookathon.org.uk and pledge to cook. Find out more about The Tesco Eat Happy Project here tesco.com/eathappyproject