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'Cook & Eat' in Stafford: a reflection

Posted on 23 June 2016

At the end of June, we successfully completed another Cook & Eat course at the Harriet Higgins Community Centre in Newcastle under Lyme, which we delivered in conjunction with the Gingerbread Centre based in Longton.

The funding for the course was provided via Adult Community Learning in Stafford and lasted five weeks.  Over the weeks we covered a range of different healthy eating topics encompassing the 'Eat Well' guide, portion sizes, fats, sugars and the importance of breakfast.  Each session provides learners with an element of theory which is embedded through different activities and we conclude with a hands on practical element; allowing the learners to prepare and cook a variety of different healthy meals from scratch.

Staying power

The true success of any course is measured not by the number of learners who initially register but by how many of those learners remain with you on that journey.  At Harriet Higgins, we had seven people who enrolled and we had the same number at the end and for any tutor it’s gratifying when the planning and effort put into every session is appreciated by those who attend.

Every group can boast a wide range of demographics, knowledge and practical ability and whilst this cohort was no different, it’s great to see people who start as strangers, form friendships and work towards a common goal.  Every session at the centre was well received and the level of knowledge within the group was excellent; some might see this as a curse but it made for some lively group discussions in which everyone was happy to contribute.  From my perspective, you can always learn something from your interaction with others!

I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in the delivery of Cook & Eat sessions in North Staffordshire for just over 12 months and it’s fair to say that it has been an enlightening process.  As mentioned, we encounter people from all walks of life with differing knowledge and experience on healthy eating but one thing is for sure; there still isn’t enough public awareness on the subject.  We live in a society that’s reliant on fast food, carbonated drinks and convenience foods all of which are high in fat, sugar and salt.  We are constantly warned of the threat of type 2 diabetes, tooth decay and obesity but can we honestly discern between the food and drink that is better for us and more importantly, the proportions and portions we should eat them in?  This course enables them to make that choice and I’ve yet to encounter anybody who’s attended that says it’s been a waste of their time.

Making the right choices

The partnership with the Gingerbread Centre is a new one in terms of this particular project but we share the same values and givens.  We both operate within the North Staffordshire area and aim to improve the communities in which we live; it’s a mutually compatible agreement whereby they provide assistance with learner recruitment and venue locations whilst we concentrate on the delivery to a captive audience.  Fingers crossed we can continue to build upon this agreement for future courses.  

When looking at the outcomes, some of the results have been quite significant.  Our primary aim is to provide learners with sufficient information and the skills needed to enable them to make healthier choices in life but the motivation and responsibility to make those changes remains within. As a tutor, it’s always hugely rewarding when people confide in you to let you know how much weight they’ve lost, what difference it’s made to their health and the changes they’ve made to their diets.

It’s even more satisfying when they feedback how they’ve changed the eating habits of other family members because we’re creating advocates for healthier eating.

Blog by Anthony Knight, Project Co-ordinator - Community Health & Wellbeing 

Groundwork West Midlands