In a bid to cut both food waste and shopping bills, a culinary community group has spent the last ten months teaching residents in the Liverpool City Region to cook smarter.
The community-led cooking programme by the Let’s Cook Project was tasked with improving local people’s home economic skills while at the same time reducing wasted food.
To get the scheme off the ground, in April last year it was awarded £25,000 from the Merseyside Recycling & Waste Authority (MRWA) and Veolia Community Fund, which was set up to help support waste prevention, re-use and recycling projects.
It is estimated that 140,000 tonnes of food is wasted in the Liverpool City Region each year which, if prevented, could help cut the average family’s monthly shopping bill by £70. It is these statistics that inspired the Let’s Cook Project to equip people with better cooking skills.
At the start of the project, four 2-day training sessions were held at the Oakmere Conference Centre in Walton which focused on healthy eating, saving money and avoiding waste. The 72 “Projecteers” who attended the classes were taught rudimentary skills such as menu planning, smart shopping, cooking from scratch, batch cooking, correct portion size, food storage and freezing leftovers. These are all key in helping to reduce the levels of avoidable food waste going to people’s bins.
“We have enjoyed being part of the Community Fund,” said James Shepherd, Director of the Let’s Cook Project. “We believe we have met our aim of creating behavioural change around food waste and can confidently state that a positive impact has been delivered. Attendees left our sessions feeling more confident with planning, shopping, cooking and storing food, enabling them to change their own behaviours at home and to ultimately reduce food waste.”
By the end of the project, approximately 200 tonnes of food and packaging waste that would otherwise have been generated was said to have been avoided, 440 cooking sessions have been held and 3256 people have benefitted from 3405 volunteer hours.
Cooking Clubs: Food for Thought
The 72 ‘Projecteers’ representing local community organisations have set up 36 cooking clubs to keep teaching the methods throughout Merseyside long after the project has finished. One such community group is Kirkby-based youth support service Centre 63.
“It has made me think about how I store and prepare food not only at home but also at the Centre,” commented Jacqui Wignall of Centre 63. “I feel a sense of achievement when we have held a cookery session with the young people at the Centre because it encourages them to taste and cook food that is healthy.”
Another ‘Projecteer’ is Saiqa Sahotra, said: “The two days of training enhanced my existing cooking skills and increased my knowledge about nutrition and avoidable waste and recycling. I was so excited to share these lifelong skills with the Mary Seacole House members.”
Councillor Tony Concepcion, Chairperson of MRWA, added: “Food waste is a big issue for us as it makes up over a third of a household bin[i]. It also has serious environmental implications too - avoidable food and drink waste is the equivalent of approximately 5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
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