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Get Cooking – delivering cooking courses in West Lothian

Please note that this project has now closed and the information within is kept for historical reasons only.

Shiona from West Lothian Council Health Improvement Team describes how the ‘Get Cooking’ programme can tailor what they offer to be as inclusive as possible. Their courses are often part of a wider programme of activities with the focus on education, raising awareness and building skills.


The Get Cooking programme, run by West Lothian Council Health Improvement Team, is a long established programme that offers cooking groups to a wide range of participants. Most often the courses are run for other agencies and services who are seeking a cooking course as part of their wider programme of activities. Courses are tailored to the requirements of the requesting organisation.

How it works

Shiona Jenkins, Community Health Development Officer for ‘Get Cooking’ manages a large bank of sessional ‘Community Food Workers’ who deliver the courses.

Shiona said:

“We’re a bit different as, being part of the Council, we are well networked and tend to deliver our cooking groups as part of programmes for other agencies and services.”

Shiona feels it is important that the cooking courses they run are suitable for everyone who is in the group without a need to make adaptations to recipes.

“For me the groups should be as inclusive as possible for everybody who is going.  So there shouldn’t need to be any many adaptations made because somebody should be able to come along and whether they have money or no money they should still be able to take part.”

They are able to do this due to long-established relationships with the agencies and services that request cooking courses, ensuring courses are tailored to the participants needs from the outset.

“Because we run with established groups that come and request our input we have a bit more background I think. Because we have this knowledge of people’s backgrounds at the start there is less need to make adaptations as we go.”

As well as this background knowledge, the Get Cooking courses are always participant-led, with discussions and decisions about recipes being an important part of each weekly group. Shiona feels that sticking to these recipe plans for the whole group, and not making adaptations for individuals, helps to make people feel more comfortable and confident.

“I think it can make people feel more vulnerable if you have started on something and then suddenly things get changed and people will think ‘is that changing because of me’.”

As the Get Cooking courses are often delivered as part of a wider programme of activities they can very much focus on “education, raising awareness and building skills”.  If it seems that the group would benefit from other support this would be organised by the requesting agency/ service. Shiona can also work with them to make a highly tailored course which covers all needs. For example ‘Cooking by Numbers’, run in partnership with the Adult Basic Education team, combines teaching numeracy skills with practical cooking. The course can lead to a SQA qualification should participants wish.

Furthermore, the ‘Train the Trainers’ course offered through the Get Cooking programme equips people who are already working with established groups, with the skills and knowledge required to incorporate cooking into their activities.

Published: March 23, 2017