Sourcing low cost, healthy food locally
The Action for Children Family Centre based in Kelloholm, Dumfries and Galloway, provides a range of facilities and activities for families with young children in the area to support the wellbeing of the families they work with. Amanda Dunsmuir, Volunteer Coordinator, runs a number of food and health activities in the centre, including cooking as part of a wider programme of activities with both children and parents. Ensuring service users regularly have something healthy to eat is also an important component of what the family centre do.
This case study focuses on the challenges of sourcing food when participants are located in a small, rural village.
Amanda knows of the challenges that local residents face in locating low cost, healthy food locally. This is particularly the case for families who cannot make the long journey to bigger towns that offer a wider range of shops.
“We’ve only really got one local shopping option and they don’t do a basics range. We might have to pay £1 for noodles where other shops brands would be 20p.”
When planning cooking courses Amanda tries to focus on the ingredients that can be purchased locally.
“We go to the local shop and do a bit of research for them – find out what is in.”
Groups also talk about substituting ingredients for things that they know can be got cheaply locally.
Knowing that access to food could be a problem for the users of the Family Centre who were really struggling to have enough food they decided to join FareShare and are now the only organisation in the region to offer this service. The food they get from FareShare is used for most of the groups that the centre runs, including the cookery sessions, and is also delivered to 72 families signed up to the scheme in the local area. Both dried and fresh food is included in the deliveries and recipes are added to the bags given to the families.
Amanda recognises that using the FareShare produce in the cooking groups may make it more difficult for participants to make the same meals at home because the food may not be available to them in the local shop. However, this is incorporated into the discussions about changing and substituting ingredients. Also, when there is excess ingredients at the end of the class, this will be given to participants to take away with them.
As ensuring service users get something to eat is an important focus for the family centre, the kitchen is made available to people who might need it.
“The centre has a fully functioning kitchen that any family can come in and prepare and eat a meal if they need to. Also, if someone was in a group and didn’t have the facilities to reheat at home we’d ask them to stay and eat it here in the kitchen.”
Eating a meal as part of a group also gives the opportunity to identify children who may not be getting enough food to keep them going, highlighting a possible need for additional support.
“Or the children that are always asking for seconds, you’re picking up on that, this could be a family that could go into FareShare and other services.”