Elgin Youth Cafe

Recruiting people experiencing food insecurity to attend cooking courses

Elgin Youth Café is a third sector organisation that aims to create a safe haven, social space and development opportunities for young people. Projects include a youth café, after-school clubs, training courses and a wide range of other activities. As part of the programme, it runs a number of cooking courses. Although its main focus is young people, they are always looking to offer their services to a number of different populations. Fiona Birse is the Social Enterprise Development Manager at the café.

This case study focuses on the different ways in which Fiona and the team recruit people who are struggling to have enough food to the cooking courses. They do this by linking in with a wide range of targeted local organisations and promoting the courses through informal and friendly discussions and presentations.

Fiona said, “The basic cooking courses we run are suitable for people who are really struggling so we have been encouraging people from the foodbank to come to those.”

Staff have been involved in several ‘People’s cafes’ in the local area in order to encourage people to engage with the cooking courses,. These are organised by Community Food Moray, the organisation running the local food bank. The People’s Café is a one-off informal event for users of the local food bank and customers of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).  A number of agencies are involved in the event including housing, social work and debt advisers.  Alongside these agencies,  Penny, cooking tutor with Elgin Youth Café, involved attendees in discussions and demonstrations of recipes that can be made from a food parcel using a variety of cooking methods, “for example carbonara with condensed soup”.  Organisers hope that after attending one-off workshops people will have more confidence to engage with the services. A local partner organisation, Transition Town Forres, followed the ‘People’s Café’ with a six-week cooking course for DWP customers.  This proved very successful and Fiona is now planning to replicate this model in Elgin.

Fiona recognises that engaging with local populations who may struggling to have enough food is key and sees the Peoples Café as one opportunity to do this.  Another way to do this is by targeting particular organisations who support people who might be struggling. Penny described her visit to a local mental health unit:

“So I went to them, did a presentation and had a blether.  It is about building relationships and people’s confidence to get involved with us.”

An awareness of local issues and trends also helps the team target ‘at risk’ groups:

“Straight after Christmas two of the main employers in the area will lay off a lot of their staff – it’s seasonal work so people could face the next six months with no money until they are taken on again in the summer so ‘we’re trying to get in there’.”

‘Getting in’ with all these local organisations in a friendly, informal manner and presenting the cooking courses in this way helps people know what they can expect from a course. Fiona hopes this will overcome some of the challenges of recruiting people who are struggling to have enough food.

“It can be hard to get people along. A lot of people are just so ashamed – that’s a stigma we are trying to alleviate.  We’re trying to say this is a fun place to be and we’re not authoritarian – we’re just here to help”.

Published: March 23, 2017