Understanding the cause of the problem: Gemma’s experience

Gemma contacted me almost out of the blue, and through our conversations, she showed me how important our understanding of barriers for those in food poverty is for finding motivation and transforming habits.
This is the second in a series of three blogs that explores the concepts behind Bags of Taste that contribute to its success
view of a street with terraced houses and new builds in the background

The environment a lot of our participants live in contributes to food poverty as much as individual circumstances.

Gemma lived nowhere near any of our courses, but had been determined enough to track me down, ask me to help her, and manage to convince me to do so. It really wasn’t until I spoke to her that I realised just how many of the barriers we overcome for our participants, as part of our regular course.

We have always asked people what stands in their way that prevents them from cooking. If we saw a recurring theme, we would figure out a way to deal with it.  Over time, we realised these “other reasons” were far more important than actual ability to cook.

A lot of our participants tell me that they don’t have or can’t afford the right equipment, that they can’t access shops that sell affordable ingredients to cook for themselves, or that they feel overwhelmed trying new things.

Gemma was facing the most common barriers that people in food poverty have to deal with on a daily basis.  She had to figure out the best local shops, she needed a knife sharpener, and had to secure the right kitchen equipment.

During our conversations, I realised that she’d already dealt with many problems yet kept hitting more. At some point, the cost-benefit equation was no longer tilting in her favour.  Reaching out to me had been yet another barrier for her to overcome, and they were starting to add up.

And when she couldn’t find affordable spices on her tight budget, it was the last straw, and she just gave up.

At Bags of Taste, we invest a huge amount of time reaching the most vulnerable and hardest to reach through partnerships with other organisations, and sometimes door-to-door work on housing estates.

We don’t expect you to find us – we find you, which shows the amount of effort and determination that Gemma had already spent.

We also don’t expect you to have a load of kitchen equipment, we provide the basics at minimal cost or free, and almost all our recipes only use a hob.

We source all the food for you first time round – and then tell you where to get it from yourself, locally.

Bags of Taste removes as many barriers as possible that hold people back from cooking ‘real’ food for themselves. These barriers may not always be visible, but they are very real.  They are also all part of a critical path – they all need to be solved in order to “unblock” the situation.  Without spices, Gemma could make no progress.

We were able to help Gemma source affordable spices local to her, and she went on to complete our course and is still with us, two years on.

Click here to read the last blog in this series – about how to support people to have enough motivation to change their lives.

Previous Blog Posts

Class Meal

How to achieve scale and impact

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Replicability is the key to scaling. Yet so many interventions are small scale and highly personalised; it takes enormously tailored, intensive interactions to effect change in people who need a high degree of support. We should know.
can opener or tin opener

“I don’t have a tin opener”

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Talking with our participants has been one of the most important things behind the success of Bags of Taste.  We’ve always been really interested in why they are not cooking – we’ve frankly surveyed the hell out of them (our pile of forms is almost 3ft high!!)