Innovation Fund Feedback from our friend Katie Shaw at Hammersmith Community Garden Association (HCGA)
HCGA was awarded the Innovation Fund to run six two-hour cooking sessions for local residents at Phoenix Farm.
The sessions involved picking produce from the farm, preparing the ingredients and cooking a meal together, in one pot. The participants then shared the food together as a way to connect and socialise.
The sessions coincided with the end of HCGA regular volunteer sessions so the volunteers could join in. The sessions were advertised to other local groups and St Mungo’s and Richmond Fellowship both brought small groups of people along.
The participants took copies of the recipes away with them and HCGA have also cooked with the volunteers subsequently. The recipes were relatively simple as they involved putting ingredients into one pot. The recipes were also designed to be healthy and with plenty of vegetables. The recipes included: cauliflower and split pea stew, sweet potato and red pepper chowder, chana masala, bubble and squeak and Mexican rice and beans.
HCGA reported that there was more interest from other local organisations than they had expected as a member of staff from Richmond Fellowship and St Mungo’s both attended one of the early sessions and then subsequently brought a small group of their clients, who then attended the remaining weeks.
HCGA stated that some the session’s required additional members of staff due to the number of participants being larger than expected (23 people plus 3 babies in the busiest week). HCGA said that volunteers from another HCGA project which meets on a Friday were also able to come on several occasions. The majority of HCGA volunteers are long-term unemployed and have mental or physical health problems, are socially isolated and have a low income, so it was a great way for them connect and meet new people.
HCGA stated that the sessions were well attended but the numbers did fluctuate (attendance for the six sessions was: 10, 5, 21, 12, 26 & 10). This meant planning for the sessions could be difficult and staff needed to get more ingredients in the weeks where there were over 20 people. This created a great opportunity for partnership working as HCGA connected with other organisations, Soup4Lunch and LBHF council to get additional support.
HCGA reported having 84 people at each session, with 48 individuals coming across the six sessions. St Mungo’s, Richmond Fellowship and Soup4Lunch brought clients with them and some of these individuals have subsequently volunteered with HCGA or attended other HCGA events.
The final session was led by a member of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham Waste Reduction Team. Their session was centered on the reduction in food waste and their one-pot recipe was bubble and squeak – to use up left over vegetables. The information given in this session could potentially have a lasting impact on attendees as they learn how to make meals out of leftover food.
HCGA said “We would like to run the project again as it was successful. We would definitely advertise it widely and continue to link up with local organisations working with disadvantaged people who may benefit from having a free, healthy, hot lunch”.
“We will be seeking funding to run this again in the autumn when Phoenix farm is full of produce to be harvested. We are also partnering with the foodbank to run 6 family play sessions in the summer holidays, we have funding to run play activities through children in need. The foodbank also have some funding so we plan to run a longer session which includes lunch. We will use the format of the one-pot cooking course and collect and prepare the ingredients together. We will also use the same recipes”.