Food poverty is a growing concern in the UK and lots of communities are setting up innovative projects to get people cooking and to bring neighbours together.
Financial inclusion officer, Susan Janes, went along to the Bags of Taste Cooking Project in Hackney after hearing about it on Facebook.
I went with one of my Hackney residents – she is struggling with her finances and also finds it hard to leave her house due to depression. I thought a cookery class was the perfect opportunity to build her confidence and help her save money on food.
The set-up was great; the free class was held in a local church hall where the friendly team dressed in stripy aprons had set up induction hobs and other cooking facilities. All of the ingredients were provided and the team made sure that any food intolerances and preferences were considered.
The group was mixed, with people of all ages watching as Alicia – the teacher – showed us how to cook the dishes. She gave us tips on the best places to buy meat and produce locally and how to cut vegetables so that nothing is wasted. She taught us how much flavour spices could add to a dish, how to store them properly and use them in everything from salads to drinks.
Then it was our turn as we recreated the dishes under the watchful eye of her volunteers. Any nerves were soon removed by the friendly atmosphere and enthusiasm of the other classmates. And all of the dishes were delicious!
One of the best bits about the project is that Alicia sells bags with the ingredients for the recipes measured out for just 75p each. This means attendees can build on their skills at home – our resident cooked a chickpea curry and rice later and was so proud she sent me a picture of her tasty dish! She’s attended further lessons and is making lots more food and friends in the process.
The Bags of Taste team also source basic cooking utensils and sell them on at a very reasonable price. Attendees are encouraged to volunteer at future workshops, giving them some work experience and helping them to build connections in their community.
Do you know of any great initiatives in your local community like Bags of Taste? Leave a comment below to share them.
Find out more about our Food Sense campaign and food poverty.
Published on Guiness Trust magazine on November 2015.