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CFINE – signposting support through cooking groups

CFINE (Community Food Initiatives North East) offers a holistic community food and health service which includes supporting people with issues such as money, employment, energy costs and housing. This case study looks at how they use cooking groups to link people with other agencies who can help.


CFINE is a social enterprise and charity operating from a hub in Aberdeen. It undertakes a range of food and health activities including running a food bank, selling low-cost produce in local communities, operating FareShare Grampian, and running cooking groups with a wide range of participants and organisations. They also offer a holistic service which includes supporting people with issues such as financial education and capability, employability, heating/energy and housing advice/support, and health and wellbeing.

Christine McLean is a development worker with CFINE and is involved in cooking groups with a variety of target participants.

This case study focuses on the opportunity presented by cooking groups to signpost and link participants in with other services. Christine explained:

“The cooking thing is a carrot – it’s getting folk involved, out their houses, getting a bit of confidence which then lets agencies and health visitors in to start supporting them.”

How it works

CFINE works with ‘people who are really, really financially strapped’. However, it can take people time to open up about their situation:

“I found that people often don’t want to speak about the cooking/eating habits on the first few sessions. They feel embarrassed and ashamed – they are comparing with all the adverts on TV and think they have to provide meat and three veg – which people can ill afford. And I try to build their confidence over the weeks.”

Christine incorporates other agencies into the cooking courses including CFINEs own financial capability officers, zero waste officers from Love Food Hate Waste, home energy advice from Scarf and other agencies. When doing this, Christine is aware of  the risk of losing participants by  ‘hitting them too hard’ so the inputs from these organisations are short, usually no more than 20 minutes, and informal. As participants confidence grows they feel more able to access the support offered, for example, the financial support services:

“And then after a couple of sessions they’ll say, ‘Christine, you know that financial capability officer – do you think I could see them on my own?’ So we set up that meeting and they meet wherever the client is comfortable.”

The financial capability officers are trained to provide a wide range of advice including housing, heating/energy advice, employability, budgeting and benefits reviews.  Key to the success of offering a full package of support is linking in with other agencies and working in partnership.

“You’ve got to have the links – it is really important.  I get annoyed with some of the agencies who say ‘you can’t be doing that – we’re already doing it’. Well, yes you are but let’s share because you’ve got something to offer and we’ve got something to offer so let’s come together.”



Published: March 23, 2017