Extract from the Food Foundation report: “Broken Plate”, July 2021
I was discussing crutches the other day. In my old life, when I was working in finance, I occasionally saw crutches, usually associated with someone who’d come back from a skiing holiday. This was maybe once every two years.
When I started teaching with Bags of Taste, we used to have collections of crutches, propped up in the corner of the room. I have never seen so many crutches in my life, and I often gazed at them in alarm. Every so often, they would all fall over at once, and there would be an almighty clatter that would disrupt the lesson. These crutches often came from people who had suffered amputated toes or other parts of their feet – due to diabetes.
I also noticed an awful lot of hospital appointments and doctors’ appointments. I remember thinking “these people are really sick – or maybe they don’t want to come to my classes?”. But the following week they would be back, keen to engage and try the new recipes, full of stories of what they had cooked with the ingredients bag from a couple of weeks ago and how the family had liked it.
“really sick” is the reality of life for many of our participants. People in poverty get sicker younger and die earlier than the rest of the population. For the poorest, it’s hard to get past 50 without a chronic, long term illness, such as diabetes, which can cause blindness, amputations and many other awful things. The poorest women are twice as likely to be obese than the richest – leading to a wide variety of other health conditions. These people are then struggling day to day – mobility is affected, and so therefore your ability to leave the house.
One of the great things about our Mentored Course is that we are accessible to people whose lives are limited to their home. These may be people with disabilities and mobility issues; it may be people that have caring responsibilities and cannot get away; they may have mental health issues and be uncomfortable in large groups, and currently, they may just be very, very scared of COVID. This fear, for some, will take a long time to dissipate. We deliver them a bag of ingredients and equipment and from there they can engage with other participants, their mentor and staff over the phone or WhatsApp. So many people talk about how the sense of community was important to them, despite the fact that it looks remote to us, they are making connections and feeling the love.
Just yesterday I was speaking to a past participant who is now volunteering with us. She said that she would never have walked into a room with loads of people in, due to her social anxiety. She also said that she nearly died in shame when she was told by her work coach to go to the food bank – she would never have gone. But she joined our course. When I asked her why, she hesitated. She talked about dignity, and that it felt more like community support than charity, when Jo rocked up at her door with our signature Red Bag. And most of all, she talked about how it felt like an adventure. She was excited to join our course and what she might learn and find out. She loved it.
To find out more about our courses, go to https://simons56.sg-host.com/courses/