Special packs containing healthy food ingredients and recipe cards are being delivered free of charge each week to around 20 households in the Furness area.
The aim of the Let’s Eat activity is to encourage people to eat healthily, try new recipes and cook on a budget and to boost their health and well-being – all helping to increase confidence, which in turn improves their employability.
Let’s Eat is an innovative activity delivered by The Building Better Opportunities Getting Cumbria to Work (BBO GCtW) project, which supports people in the Barrow and South Lakes area aged 18 and above, who are either unemployed or economically inactive and are furthest removed from the labour market.
It is working with one of its delivery partners, The Well Communities at Barrow, whose staff each week plan a healthy, low-cost meal; produce a recipe; buy the ingredients required for people to cook the meal in their home for themselves and their families; pack everything up and hand deliver the packs directly to the doors of participants in the Barrow, Ulverston and Furness area.
Around 20 deliveries are made each week, with nearly 50 people benefiting from the project.
“Prior to the coronavirus lockdown we had been planning ways to support people to increase their budgeting and money management skills,” said Natalia Wealleans-Turner, Project Manager of BBO GCtW Project.
“We were going to set up a weekly cook and eat group, but Covid-19 put a stop to face-to-face sessions. We discussed what to do with our partner organisations and The Well Communities set up the Let’s Eat activity.”
A typical Let’s Eat pack will contain the ingredients to cook a simple, low-cost and healthy meal, such as beef stew, macaroni cheese, tacos or vegetarian shepherd’s pie. There is a recipe card, which shows how to cook the meal and also ‘conversation starter’ ideas – a spaghetti bolognese recipe, for example, might contain an interesting fact about Italy, designed to get a family talking.
“Cooking is a really important skill which a lot of people don’t necessarily have,” said Ms Wealleans-Turner. “The Let’s Eat activity can bolster people’s cooking confidence, improve their budgeting skills and it is also a way of them connecting with other family members, in particular their children.”
She said the activity helped to boost participants’ employability by increasing their softer skills. “BBO GCtW knows that in order to support people to develop and move towards the labour market we have to address many issues by taking a holistic approach,” said Ms Wealleans-Turner.
“Building confidence with cooking can help people feel more confident generally. And if someone is not eating well or prioritising their general health and well-being that creates a barrier to employability and certainly sustaining employment.”
Feedback from participants has been excellent. “People have said their confidence in cooking a tasty and healthy meal has improved massively,” said Ms Wealleans-Turner.
“Their willingness to try new dishes has increased. Some families have said that it is one fewer meal to worry about financially. Others have talked about the benefits of being able to cook with their children. One said that while they were in lockdown it had helped them feel connected with other people because they knew that, on a Thursday, they were all cooking the same meal.
“A couple of the participants have settled here from elsewhere in the world and they said they relished the opportunity to learn how to cook British food.”
Ged Pickersgill, BBO GCtW Partner Manager for The Well Communities, commented: “I think the cooking activity brings families together. It is a really important social time when people sit down and eat a meal together.”
Ms Wealleans-Turner said the ultimate aim was to set up a small cooking group in future, but timing would depend on the Covid-19 restrictions.
BBO GCtW is funded by the European Social Fund and the National Lottery Community Fund and is run by Cumbria Council for Voluntary Service (CCVS) in partnership with five charitable organisations – The Well Communities at Barrow, Imagine Independence, Right2Work, Barrow Women’s Community Matters and Cumbria Alcohol and Drug Advisory Service (CADAS).