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On-line cooking sessions -Tips and ideas from Edinburgh Community Food and Greener Kirkcaldy

Edinburgh Community Food (ECF) and Greener Kirkcaldy, both usually run regular face-to-face cooking courses. They now deliver these online and gave us some tips and ideas based on what they have learnt.

What approaches are they taking?

Greener Kirkcaldy’s initial focus last year was to provide easy-to-follow recipes by providing cooking demos on their YouTube channel. They also tried live question and answer sessions with their Community Chef, but these were less successful. Next, they piloted events delivered over two sessions. This consisted of: an interactive online session; showing a pre-recorded cooking demo followed by a question and answer session with the chef. This format worked well and is the approach they plan to continue with. Greener Kirkcaldy have also supported local partners to develop their technical skills so they can run their own online cooking activities.

Edinburgh Community Food (ECF)’s cooking skills practitioners tried out, and continue to use a range of approaches and formats to teach online cooking – each adapted to the needs of the group. They use: Zoom to run interactive live cooking sessions with small groups; Facebook Live, where two practitioners run a live cooking demo with participants watching; and they run closed Facebook groups, which provide self-paced options for participants. They have also uploaded videos to their YouTube channel, but find the other options more useful for their approach.

What did they consider before they started?

The format

Are the cooking sessions self-paced, real time learning or something in-between? ECF and Greener Kirkcaldy have successfully used a range of these formats to engage with communities.

Reaching people, community engagement and attendance

 Greener Kirkcaldy have found that delivering online activities has helped to keep them engaged with their local community.

  • ECF have continued to work with partner organisations to recruit people onto the courses, and this has been mostly successful.
  • Both organisations find it can be difficult to encourage consistent attendance – ECF speculated this may have been more difficult recently as people are ‘zoomed out’, or people may be less likely to attend over the winter period.
  • ECF sends participants regular reminders to encourage attendance

Recipes and ingredients

Both ECF and Greener Kirkcaldy have tried different ways to make sure people have the ingredients they need for a cooking session. Both find that providing ingredients to the participant by either delivering these, or having these picked up ensures that people have everything they need.

Greener Kirkcaldy have used really simple recipes for their YouTube videos, this makes filming easier and videos shorter.

Safety, privacy and data challenges

Participants and practitioners taking part in online video calls from home are effectively letting others into their homes. Both ECF and Greener Kirkcaldy have developed policies around privacy. For example, ECF asks participants to stay in ‘public’ rooms, such as the kitchen or living room, during any type of online training. Children and young people under 18 years of age must be accompanied by a parent or carer to ensure safeguarding during online sessions.

Both ECF and Greener Kirkcaldy recruit course participants who may not have access to laptops/ tablets or need assistance to pay for extra data (live sessions use a lot of data). Both have used funding to assist people with accessing tablets or data.

Measuring impact – keeping in contact

  • Both ECF and Greener Kirkcaldy asks participants to complete online surveys (ECF uses Microsoft Forms) to get feedback or find out about the impact of the activities.
  • Greener Kirkcaldy is planning to ask participants on its next course to make pledges and will sent these to them on a postcard a month later.

About each platform 

YouTube and videos – developing your inner film director

Although some people are used to developing short videos, there’s more to consider when planning cooking videos. The benefits and challenges of making and showing YouTube videos include:


  • Participants can watch it in their own time, as often as they want
  • It provides a long-term resource that can be shown again
  • It can be used alongside more interactive online activities


  • Developing technical skills so the video is good enough
  • The cost of equipment

Greener Kirkcaldy have recently run a joint training session with partners who are planning to run their own cooking activities online. The training is focused on developing technical skills and tips around filming for YouTube. These have included:


  • Plan in advance and have a clear idea about the aims of the video and what points to cover – a script or storyboard may help, as well as practicing before you start filming
  • Think about what equipment you need or can manage with – filming using two cameras/smart phones at the same time can be useful as this will give you a range of angles to choose from when editing. A tripod for a smart phone or gorilla pod can also be useful to keep everything steady
  • Keep filming even if you make mistakes – its best to edit these afterwards rather than stopping and starting
  • Consider the environment where filming will take place – avoid items or backgrounds that will distract viewers
  • Think about lighting – natural light is best, but can be boosted with extra lights such as desk lamps or clip-on lights.
  • Think about the sound – do you need an extra microphone for the sound, or is worth using one smart phone for filming and one for recording and putting these together when editing?


Zoom offers live video calls with online chat options. ECF has been using this format regularly for live face-to-face cooking sessions over the last year. These are led by one facilitator who uses a laptop camera to film from, and by moving the laptop around the kitchen as needed. ECF runs these sessions for up to two hours (with breaks with the cameras switched off).


  • Zoom sessions works well with very small groups of three or four people.
  • It can help reduce social isolation
  • It’s easy for other members of the household to join in. For example, this works well when other family members join in with the interactive nutrition session
  • Zoom cooking groups do not take up too much staff time


  • It can be difficult to keep the group cooking at the same pace
  • It can be difficult to see what everyone is doing
  • To keep it interactive and to enable teaching, participants cameras and audio are switched on – this can be noisy, so these live sessions are best with small groups


  • The session needs to be well-planned, with all the ingredients and equipment ready to use and easy to reach.
  • If filming from a laptop – the laptop can be tipped forward so that it faces the chopping board when chopping, or it can be placed at a high level so participants can get a good view of the cooking.

Facebook Live

ECF uses Facebook Live to livestream a cooking demo. Participants watch the cooking demo and can interact with the session using Facebook chat. ECF runs this with two practitioners so that one person focuses on answering the chat while the other person does the cooking. Split screens showing both practitioners is also possible.


  • This format works well for participants who do not wish to show themselves or their homes onscreen.


  • There tends to be limited interaction between facilitators and participants or between participants

Closed Facebook groups

ECF uses closed Facebook groups for some groups, sometimes for a specific number of weeks or these can be ongoing. This involves uploading cooking demos and resources and encouraging participants to interact by uploading their own cooking images and comments.


  • Participants may prefer the self-led approach and they can look back at the videos if they need to
  • This approach has successfully kept people engaged and interacting with each other –some of the groups have created active online communities, with families posting comments, tips and photos
  • The comments, number of views and interactions are easy to track- making gathering evaluation materials a straightforward task


  • There is no live face-to-face interaction
  • Checking and responding to comments can be time consuming for staff (and often takes place out-with their usual working hours)

Future plans

Both ECF and Greener Kirkcaldy plan to continue online activities in future and will run these alongside face-to-face activities when this is possible. Greener Kirkcaldy is positive about how an online approach can reach a wider audience and ECF envisages a mixed model and making the most of what they have gained from running online activities.

Where to get more guidance on delivering services online

The Third Sector Lab has a series of videos about running online community activities. These are available on the Third Sector Lab website.

SCVO has a range of ‘how to..’ guides, including on digital inclusion and shifting your service online. The guides are available on the SCVO website.


Thanks to Greener Kirkcaldy and ECF for putting together their tips and ideas.



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