Changing Diets, Changing Lives: Our Mentored Home Cooking Programme

Put simply, our work is designed to address food poverty, helping disadvantaged people overcome and stay out of it, and those we work with – principally our funders, partners, commissioners – understand and help them.

A Recipe for Life-long Change

Rather than providing a cooking class that teaches a recipe, we provide a recipe for life-long dietary and financial change.

We know, after years of supporting thousands of people experiencing poverty, that they need in-depth, personalised support from people who have a deep understanding of the underlying issues they are facing.

Our programme is evidence led and designed with the input and evidence of thousands of participants to address the underlying reasons why people in poverty make unhealthy and expensive food choices.  We help them to eat tasty, affordable and healthy food, and make that a habit.

Independent evaluations and feedback we get shows that they are happier, healthier and sustain necessary changes to their diet, health and finances. This has a powerful positive impact on them, their families, friends and future generations.

Our Mentored Programme – Accessible, Inclusive and Flexible

The people that we work with face multiple challenges in their lives.  Finances, time, families’ food preferences, lack of equipment, caring responsibilities, disability and ill health all play their part in defining the food choices open to them.

By connecting with people on WhatsApp and over the phone, we are able to support them at the time of their choosing, and without the demands of a face to face course.

We are able to reach those who feel uncomfortable joining groups, or have physical limitations that make travel hard.  Parents of young children, or carers who can’t leave their relative alone. Those with chaotic lives or on shift work who struggle to show up in a particular place at a particular time.  Elements of what we do reduce social isolation for many; we also build confidence, which allows participants to engage with society in the future.

We show people that healthy eating is not only good for you, but fun, tasty and even social, and help them to build their habits for the long term.

Stage 1: the mentored component

  • Small groups or individual participants are connected with experienced volunteer mentors via Whats app or telephone. Most of our volunteers are nutritionists and we are endorsed by the Association for Nutritionists for volunteer mentoring.
  • Pre-course, people receive a free bag of ingredients delivered to their door. This is enough for 7 meals
  • They get detailed step -by-step recipes and some specialist equipment like measuring spoons and knife sharpeners.
  • Mentors follow a clear syllabus, leading participants through a series of tasks and cooking the recipes, using specially created videos and resources.  They learn about a broad range of things like nutrition, batch cooking, budgeting, food storage and shopping tips.
  • Participants cook in their own time and share progress with their group. The course is fun and interactive and cooking together creates healthy competition. The groups encourage each other to keep on track and provide a sense of community.
  • 80% of participants go on to complete the programme and receive further support.

Stage 2: Follow-on component

  • Completers receive a graduation pack with 10 further recipes, a certificate and a small gift
  • These specially tailored recipes build on techniques learnt on the Mentored part of the programme, and cover takeaway favourites like Chinese and Indian for around £1 a portion.
  • Our evaluations show that after 6 months, 70% of people go on to cook these recipes.

Stage 3: Long Term Support groups

  • Participants are invited to join our ‘follow on’ Bags of Taste online groups (via Whatsapp or Facebook)
  • They can access new recipes and videos, and there’s a weekly recipe “challenge”
  • Groups have thousands of members and people share cooking, budgeting and shopping tips
  • Being part of a friendly and encouraging community inspires and motivates people to continue on their cooking journey.

These three stages, combined with our personalised support make much more of an impact than going on a short course. Students are encouraged and motivated to make changes to their diets and continue making healthier food choices.

Many of our students have stayed with our online communities for years. Our earlier students give advice and support the newer students. Once a Bags of Taster, always a Bags of Taster.

The Bags of Taste programme covers a wide range of skills that help build independence and resilience.

Who we work with

Reaching people who need us most is our first priority. Ahead of any course, our area head works with a range of referrers across their location.

We work with a range of charities and public health organisations, including the NHS and community projects that tackle mental health, addiction, social isolation and disabilities – this helps us identify and reach out directly to people.

To learn more about the cohorts we reach and the challenges they face, click here

National food strategy booklets
Bernie receiving her certificate

Campaign and educate

A key part of what we do is represent the people we work with and give them a voice. We have worked with government advising on policies and national strategies and a number of universities where we lecture on the issues surrounding the challenges that people face to eating a good diet.