A food charity which offers cooking courses for vulnerable adults in Thanet has received a £5000 grant from Kent Community Foundation to support its project
Non-profit Bags of Taste offer participants ingredients and materials and support from the team via phone, email, WhatsApp, or Facebook Messenger.
The course is for vulnerable adults so that people who are living in poverty can be supported to improve the way they buy, prepare, and eat food either on their own or living as a family. The course participants are provided with nine recipes and food for seven meals which they cook over a few weeks and discover what works for them and their families. They then receive a pack of nine further recipes designed to build on the techniques that they have already learnt and a shopping guide to help them source their food at the lowest possible price.
Alicia Weston, from Bags of Taste, said: “The pandemic and food price inflation has disproportionately affected those in poverty, whose struggles to eat well means that they get sicker and die younger than their richer counterparts.
“Eating well is about much more than knowing how to cook. It’s about lots of other things like the cost of ingredients, having equipment, and the motivation, time, and head space to cook. Eighty percent of the people we work with rate their cooking skills as average to good, yet they are spending almost £900 a year on unhealthy ready meals and takeaways.
“Bags of Taste’s Mentored Home Cooking course gives people the support they need to overcome these barriers and move away from unhealthy processed food to cooking regularly for themselves and their families. This improves their families’ finances, health and wellbeing.
“Course attendees are generally disadvantaged, and many have multiple and complex challenges including mental health, learning disabilities, long term health conditions or illness, or are carers.”
One attendee said: “The course has helped me to get my mojo back! I had got out of the habit of cooking for myself now that I live on my own and some nights I just had cereal or a sandwich.
“I am now back in the swing of cooking and eating healthily. I know I will save money and hopefully this will be enough to cover my rent increase. The list of local shops was really helpful, as I knew about some of them, but not all, so I will definitely check them out.”
Bags of Taste was launched in 2014 after several successful pilot projects, The team work with people in poverty, many of whom are facing multiple further disadvantages, to improve their diets.
Recognising that this is not simply a case of people in poverty “needing to learn to cook” or needing to be “more motivated”, Bags of Taste runs comprehensive courses designed to help overcome barriers. These also often transform lives in much wider ways, with typical outcomes including a 40% increase in vegetable consumption, an 85% drop in takeaway consumption, and large financial savings of £1,350 per year.
Some 54% of participants report improved health by the end of the course with 10% going on to volunteer with the organisation to mentor other participants.
Josephine McCartney, from Kent Community Foundation, said, “The grant application from Bags of Taste was compelling. Thanet is the most deprived local authority in Kent, where a third of children live below the poverty line. We were keen to support this initiative as we know that food banks can’t be the long-term solution and this offered a tangible way to prepare families for a healthier future.”
Five million people in the UK lived in food poverty between 2019 – 2020, according to the Government’s latest Family Resources Survey. In 2020, this was 8% of the population, but data from The Food Foundation suggests food insecurity levels rose to 9% of the population in January 2021. The Trussell Trust has also seen an increase in food bank use of 123% over the past five years, whilst the Independent Food Aid Network report a rise of 110% between 2019 and 2020.
Alliance Sustain, made up of organisations and communities working together for a better system of food, farming and fishing, says food poverty impacts: “Children who are unable to access free school meals during the holidays; individuals who are using food banks for the first time after a job loss; parents on low incomes who skip meals so their children can eat; older people unable to prepare meals without support, or people with no recourse to public funds who are excluded from most welfare support.
“All of these instances are a symptom of inadequate and/or insecure incomes, holes in the welfare safety net, increased living costs, rising debt, and financial problems for households living with disability and mental health issues. “
To talk to Kent Community Foundation about funding for your project call, 01303 814500 or visit www.kentcf.org.uk
Find out more about Bags of Taste at www.bagsoftaste.org
This is both lovely and amazing. Sounds like a great scheme. More than just handing out vital food to those that need it – it’s giving them a boost and knowledge that helps in so many ways. I’d wager many people even in better situations find themselves over reliant on take aways and ready meals.
Lovely scheme and glad they have got some financial backing. Keep up the good work.
I agree and lots of the food Club members who have done the course have told me how much they enjoyed it and how much they learnt.