An Aberdeen student group which supported the community through lockdown by delivering thousands of kilograms of food is now helping people learn to cook healthy meals.
The Foodsharing Service, which forms part of the University of Aberdeen’s Shared Planet Society, distributes surplus food from supermarkets to those in need and those unable to leave their homes as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Following their efforts through lockdown, the student group was selected as a ‘community hero’ in a scheme supported by Tesco which aims to reach out to families and individuals who would benefit from additional support to prepare low cost and healthy meals.
Anna Kebke, coordinator of the group and a final year Marine Biology student, explains: “The Community Cookery School aims to reach out to households to help them cook healthy and delicious meals.
“Through the Foodsharing Service we have already developed relationships with members of the local community and a key component of the programme is being able to offer this support where it is needed.
“We used our existing relationships with service users to identify people keen to take part.
“In more normal times, the sessions would involve getting practical skills in the kitchen but as this isn’t currently possible, we had to look to virtual methods instead.”
The student volunteers received additional online training in areas such as knife skills and food hygiene and then recorded instructional videos for three selected recipes, developed by chef Jamie Oliver.
“One of the key differences with the recipes developed is that not only are they healthy and nutritious, they have been designed so that ingredients can be easily substituted,” Anna added.
“They also utilise items that are frequently in surplus and so feature regularly in the supplies delivered through projects like ours.
“But the scheme is about more than just providing recipes. It is about training and supporting volunteers so that these skills and ideas can be passed on at community level.
“If they train 300 community cooks and each of those supports 15 of their service users then we can reach 4,500 families around the UK.”
The food required to make each of the recipes during the demonstration is provided by Tesco and the Aberdeen sessions have received positive feedback.
One service user wrote: "I really enjoyed the cooking classes, it gave me something different to do during the long winter lockdown. It was a good reminder of how easy it can be to cook a healthy and delicious meal."
For Anna, who will soon begin a job with Marine Scotland, working as part of the Foodsharing Service has shaped her University experience.
“I’ve been delighted to be part of both the Foodsharing service and the Community Cookery School. Seeing the difference that schemes like the Foodsharing Service can make has been a really important part of my time at university.
“I’ve met some wonderful people and it has helped me feel connected to the city and the community in which I live. I’m hopeful that even after graduation this summer I can continue to be involved in some capacity.”
Details of the Foodsharing Service can be found at https://www.facebook.com/sharedplanetsociety The group are also seeking additional student and staff volunteers. Anyone interested should contact firstname.lastname@example.org