“We heard about one young lad in Buckinghamshire, who was on the verge of just completely dropping out from society. He attended one of our cooking sessions at a youth club, and loved it so much that he’s now working in a café. That’s a positive outcome.”
This is the kind of story that James Shepherd is starting to hear more of. Eighteen months ago, he and two others set up the Let’s Cook Project (LCP), a social enterprise that seeks to equip people with the skills and confidence to cook from scratch. It’s an activity that has a host of benefits for both individuals and society at large, from improving physical and mental health, to reducing social isolation, decreasing food waste, and enhancing community cohesion.
The project operates in two ways. Firstly, they train up representatives from local organisations, who then provide practical cooking lessons within their own communities. But James and his colleagues also engage in some ‘direct delivery’, running cooking sessions themselves at a local level.
“That ensures that we don’t become too detached from the project’s purpose, and the needs of our own users,” he explains. “For example, currently I’m running a group that includes young mothers, who perhaps don’t have the life skills required to take on their new responsibilities.”
The Let’s Cook Project is based in Cambridge, but they work nationally, outsourcing the training work to a network of ‘trusted partners’. From a housing association in Merseyside, to students at the University of Leicester, James says that they go wherever the need is. Since the consumption of convenience foods in the UK has been on the rise for many years, it seems that the likes of LCP are providing a vital service.
“People might lack the skills, the time, or they simply might not enjoy cooking from scratch,” says James. “We try to foster some joy, and see what’s achievable. If we can get people eating one meal a week that involves preparing fresh ingredients, then that’s a battle won. Maybe not the war, but it’s very much going in the right direction.”
Are you a cookery trainer, or any kind of business addressing community health issues? The Let’s Cook Project want to work with you. Get in contact at firstname.lastname@example.org / 07973 871580.
By Theo Hooper
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