Changing Diets, Changing Lives: Our Mentored Home Cooking Course

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 issues they are facing.

Our courses are evidence led and rigorously designed to address the economic, structural, psychological and practical barriers that people in poverty face and to create lasting results.

We offer long-term, ongoing support to show students that cooking affordable healthy food can become a habit. Because they are choosing and cooking what they eat – rather than buying ready-made or takeaway food – they are in control. The feedback we get shows that this makes them happier, healthier and able to sustain necessary changes to their diet, health and finances. This has a powerful positive impact on them, their families, friends and future generations.

Mentored Home Cooking Course
WhatsApp Virtual Mentored course

Our Mentored Course – Accessible, Inclusive and Flexible

Changing diets is not an easy task, nor is there a “quick fix”, so multiple stages of our course engage students at different stages of their journey.

We provide ongoing, long term engagement and this is key to maintaining impact and embedding healthy eating as a habit.

Stage 1: the mentored component

  • Small groups or individual students are connected with experienced volunteer mentors via Whats app or telephone
  • Pre-course, students receive a free bag of ingredients delivered to their door. This is enough for 7 meals
  • They get detailed step -by-step recipes and equipment (measuring spoons, knife sharpener)
  • Mentors follow a clear syllabus, sharing food, budgeting and shopping tips and specially created videos.
  • Students 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.
  • 80% of students generally complete the course.

Stage 2: Follow-on component

  • Students receive a graduation pack with 9 further recipes, a certificate and a small gift
  • Recipes build on techniques learnt on the Mentored course
  • Our evaluations show that after 6 months, 70% of students go on to cook these recipes.

Stage 3: Long Term Support groups

  • Students are invited to join our ‘follow on’ Bags of Taste online groups (via Whatsapp or Facebook)
  • They can access new recipes and videos
  • Groups have over 1,500 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.

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 projects that tackle mental health, addiction, social isolation and disabilities – this helps us identify and reach out directly to those who need us most.

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 their national strategies and universities where we lecture on the issues surrounding the challenges that people face to eating a good diet.