We reckon our POWs could help new mums even more if they were able to show them how to cook a few quick and easy things. So we’re training our staff to do just this.
Gateway regularly works with families who are managing on very low income. Our Pregnancy Outreach Workers report that, for some clients, money is so restricted that they have to make a choice between paying the bills and the weekly food shop.
Some women are choosing to feed their families before themselves, which is not advisable for anyone – but particularly not if they are pregnant.
We realised some time ago that we needed a way of providing immediate help to those who need it, and the combination of our food bank and hardship payments already do that. However, this is emergency help and it isn’t a long term answer. It bridges a gap, but it’s only viable for a few days. There’s a real need for something more sustainable.
Sharing cooking skills
We’ve found that part of the issue is that people don’t know how to buy and prepare meals that are both cheap and nutritious. Often, a shopping budget can stretch much further if you buy raw ingredients, rather than prepared items, but this requires you to know what to do with them.
So we’re training a number of staff in the skills they would need to be able to run cooking sessions. They’ll then be in a position to show their clients how to buy the right sorts of ingredients and how to prepare meals that fit more easily into a limited budget.
The “Cooking Mentors” training is being delivered by the Food and Dietetic Department of the Birmingham Community Healthcare Trust. It includes nutrition advice and an element of practical food preparation. As part of this training the Mentors will be completing a Basic Food Hygiene Certificate and given all the other tools they need to teach others.
Once they’ve completed all this, the Cooking Mentors will be ready to start sharing their knowledge and giving new mums some new skills, either in one-to-one, in a client’s home, or by providing a “healthy eating” workshop in a group session.
Here Caroline and Lindsey, two of our POWs, talk about how they’ll be using their new skills:
We recognise that not everyone who takes part in the sessions will have the relevant cooking equipment in their home, or the money to buy initial ingredients, so we hope to be able to offer a starter pack for those who need it, too.
This is not a project we are being funded to provide. We’ve seen that there’s a gap and – as is so often the case – we want to fill it.
Can you help?
A big thank you to Foghorn Improv, who donated the proceeds from one of their recent comedy nights, which has really helped with setting up costs for this project. We’re hoping to be able to provide most of the food basics and cooking equipment via the funds and contacts we already have, but we’d be very glad of further donations.
So if you have (unused) cooking equipment and think our Mentors could make use of it, please pass it along. Alternatively, if you want to help but don’t have any kitchen utensils to donate, you could provide supermarket vouchers for us to buy food or cooking equipment.
Of course, we hope the Cooking Mentors will be part of a longer term solution for food poverty, but food is still essential and many people are still in need of emergency donations, especially over the winter.
As well as running our own bank for food and essentials, we work closely with Narthex, who often provide food parcels to our clients. If you’re in the Sparkhill/Sparkbrook area and you want to give food to those in need, please take donations to Narthex. We know they would be glad of them.