We are a foodbank and we first started our Meet and Eat sessions because people told us that they didn't know how to use the food in foodbank parcels . Some people told us that they usually spent significant money on takeways because they weren't confident cooking.
At Meet and Eat (which runs in term time), we will cook a simple two course meal together and eat together. Any leftovers will be shared out for people to take home and everyone who attends will take home a recipe pack with the necessary ingredients to let them cook something at home. The recipes are planned to encourage cheap, tasty, healthy eating and a chance to try new ingredients and recipes. We make our own version of takeaway favourites to show that healthy eating doesn't have to be dull.
Meet and Eat sessions also provide a chance for people to chat, enjoy social interaction over a meal and get out of their homes. We know how much our clients value the chance to escape their own four walls and feelings of isolation. When we have run similar events the presence of older and more frail participants really seem to bring out the best in some of our younger participants as they look for ways to help them.
The recipe packs that people will take home and their increased confidence at cooking helps their families so that the benefit of the sessions spreads out beyond those who actually attend and into regular family life.
Many of our foodbank clients have poor mental health. Some people end up at a foodbank as a result of their mental ill health while others find that the stress of having to rely on a foodbank causes anxiety and depression. There is thus a positive feedback loop of poverty fuelling mental ill health, and mental illness leading people to end up in poverty. There is well established evidence that eating more healthily improves mental well being.
Some quotes from people who come to Meet and Eat.
"I can't believe I made that quiche. I've never made anything before. My mum won't believe it. " (we were all still talking about the quiche three months later!)
"I've never tried butternut squash before. It's alright, isn't it". (This is high praise in Yorkshire!)
"I'd go mad if I couldn't come here. I hate sitting just staring at my own four walls all day".
"I've got my confidence back a bit coming here. I'm ready to try volunteering at other places now"
"I'm never buying a jar of pasta sauce again. This is so much better"
People bring in photos of what they have cooked from their recipe packs, or they tell us about it the next week so we know that the recipe packs get used and people are trying new things,
In school holidays (particularly the summer holidays) , when Meet and Eat doesn't run, we will collaborate with other local organisations on Holiday Hunger projects, providing a simple lunch and activities for families missing free school meals in the holidays. We will make up recipe packs to hand out at the events, choosing recipes that are quick to cook (so don't use much electricity or gas) and that show how quite simple ingredients can be turned into a variety of different meals that taste really good. We tried this out for the first time this summer and it worked well.
We're a foodbank and our priority is being able to supply food parcels to people in financial crisis. That takes up most of our resources of time and money, We really believe in the value of Meet and Eat and our Holiday Hunger project and if you vote for us we will be able to buy more fresh ingredients to grow the projects further. This year most of our recipe packs were store cupboard ingredients - we would love to be able to buy more fresh fruit and vegetables to make the recipes a bit more exciting.