Since leaving a steady job in September 2014, I have been exploring different options for work that also bring in my love of food. As someone who has worked in the ‘not for profit sector’ for most of my adult life, I find it difficult to leave it behind. Leaving my job was a big step, but I find myself exploring new ways of community work that also draws my interest in food and cooking!
I first came across Cracking Good Food in May 2011 when I was researching ‘team building’ activities for my work colleagues. I was looking for a cooking class but found them to be way over our limited budget. So when I came across the Cracking Good Food ‘wild food foraging’ class, I was immediately drawn to it! The event involved identifying edible plant life in a local park. Some easily identifiable and some not so obvious! We then cooked up our foraged goodies and shared it as a team. That day really got me interested in wild food foraging, and I have since cooked up many foraged mushrooms and made bottles of elderflower cordial in the summer months.
Foraging involves ‘the acquisition of food by hunting, fishing, or the gathering of plant matter’ and has become of increasing interest to people in the UK. Recently I have noticed ‘foraging’ being featured in celebrity cooking programs, increasing the public interest and easing worries about the risks of poisoning! Although caution is always advised, especially when mushroom foraging!
Cracking Good Food is a cookery school and community cooking network, and a social enterprise that promotes cooking from scratch using sustainable and seasonal ingredients. It’s mission is to promote cooking skills in local communities by delivering cooking courses and training, as part of a wider campaign for affordable, sustainable & healthier food for all.
Fast forward 3 years and I find myself working for Cracking Good Food, helping to deliver cooking sessions in the community. I saw an advert for Sessional Facilitators on their Facebook page and knew straight away that it was something I wanted to be involved in. Over the past few years their portfolio of work has increased massively in line with public awareness of the huge amount of food waste in the household, in agriculture and commercially.
In previous posts I have referred to the ‘Love Food, Hate Waste‘ website which cites that “since 2007 avoidable food and drink waste (the good stuff that could once have been eaten) has reduced by a massive 21% saving consumers £3.3 billion a year and councils around £85 million in 2012 alone.” Not only is sustainable food sourcing important for the environment, but it is also beneficial in communities where increasing numbers of people are turning to Food Banks for extra groceries when facing financial difficulties.
I have been involved in Cracking Good Food’s community outreach events that have taught the cooking of nutritious and affordable recipes in communities with high levels of deprivation. The above photo was taken at a similar event when students learned to cook ‘sweet potato and chickpea burgers’ with a ‘carrot and coriander salad’. The amazing thing about these sessions was that most of the ingredients were made with fresh produce that was destined for landfill!
As someone who loves food, I am incredibly grateful to my family for teaching me the pleasures that good food can bring to life and how to cook nutritious meals. Not everyone is so lucky, there are many children who go to school hungry and mainly live off highly processed foods high in salt, sugar and fat. I am increasingly interested in developing communities using the food as a tool. Whether teaching the importance of eating well or exploring new flavours and introducing them to a wider range of foods.
In an era when food poverty in the the developed nations is on the increase, it is becoming more important to consider our relationship with food. From wasting less food by shopping in smaller quantities to using up left overs for another meal, everyone can make a small change to their cooking and eating habits.