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Community project serves up cookery classes to help cut trash and save cash (23 April 2019)

A culinary community group has spent the last ten months teaching residents in the Liverpool City Region to cook smarter and help cut their grocery bills.

The community-led cooking programme by the Let’s Cook Project was tasked with improving local people’s home economic skills while at the same time reducing wasted food.

They have used money received from a grant to help inspire better cooking, healthier eating and food waste reduction across the region. In April last year they were awarded £25,000 from the Merseyside Recycling & Waste Authority (MRWA) and Veolia Community Fund 2018/19, which was set up to help support waste prevention, re-use and recycling projects.

It is estimated that 140,000 tonnes of food is wasted in the Liverpool City Region each year which, if prevented, could help cut the average family’s monthly shopping bill by £70. It is these statistics that inspired the Let’s Cook Project to equip people with better cooking skills.

At the start of the project, four 2-day training sessions were held at the Oakmere Conference Centre in Walton which focused on healthy eating, saving money and avoiding waste. The 72 “Projecteers” who attended the classes were taught rudimentary skills such as menu planning, smart shopping, cooking from scratch, batch cooking, correct portion size, food storage and freezing leftovers. These are all key in helping to reduce the levels of avoidable food waste going to people’s bins.

James Shepherd, Director of the Let’s Cook Project, said: “We have enjoyed being part of the Community Fund. We believe we have met our aim of creating behavioural change around food waste and can confidently state that a positive impact has been delivered. Attendees left our sessions feeling more confident with planning, shopping, cooking and storing food, enabling them to change their own behaviours at home and to ultimately reduce food waste.”

By the end of the project, approximately 200 tonnes of food and packaging waste that would otherwise have been generated has been avoided, 440 cooking sessions have been held and 3256 people have benefitted from 3405 volunteer hours.

The 72 ‘Projecteers’ representing local community organisations have set up 36 cooking clubs to keep teaching the methods throughout Merseyside long after the project has finished. One such community group is Kirkby-based youth support service Centre 63. Jacqui Wignall of Centre 63 said: “It has made me think about how I store and prepare food not only at home but also at the Centre. I feel a sense of achievement when we have held a cookery session with the young people at the Centre because it encourages them to taste and cook food that is healthy.”

Another ‘Projecteer’ is Saiqa Sahotra who is a Health and Wellbeing support worker at the multi-cultural mental health resource service Mary Seacole House in Liverpool. Saiqa said: “The two days of training enhanced my existing cooking skills and increased my knowledge about nutrition and avoidable waste and recycling. I was so excited to share these lifelong skills with the Mary Seacole House members.”

Councillor Tony Concepcion, Chairperson of MRWA, said: “Food waste is a big issue for us as it makes up over a third of a household bin[i]. It also has serious environmental implications too – avoidable food and drink waste is the equivalent of approximately 5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. If we all stop wasting this mountain of food, the CO2 impact would be the equivalent of taking 22 million cars off the road for a year[ii].

“Projects like Let’s Cook can instil confidence in people, giving them the skills to cook real food and cook it properly making them – and region’s bins – healthier!”

ENDS

Note to editors

  • Image caption –

MRWA_LETSCOOK_1: (l to r) Carl Beer (MRWA Chief Executive), Cllr Tony Concepcion (MRWA Chairperson); Rebecca Popple (Director at The Let’s Cook Project), James Shepherd (Director at The Let’s Cook Project)
MRWA_LETSCOOK_2: James Shepherd (centre) overseeing a practical cooking activity at Gillmoss Recycling Discovery Centre
MRWA_LETSCOOK_3: ‘Projecteers’ celebrating with their Let’s Cook Project certificates at Gillmoss Recycling Discovery Centre

  • The Let’s Cook Project is a social enterprise that is on a mission to equip the nation with the skills, knowledge and confidence to cook from scratch. The Let’s Cook Project works with charitable partners, local authorities, corporate sponsors and others to deliver training both directly to the end user and through train the trainer programmes. letscookproject.org
  • Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority is responsible for the disposal of municipal waste on Merseyside. Established in 1986 following the abolition of Merseyside County Council, it is a statutory Authority that works with all the local authorities on Merseyside – Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral. MRWA takes a lead in advocating recycling, waste minimisation and safe and effective disposal of waste for Merseyside residents. MRWA operates (via a contract with resource management company Veolia) 14 Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRC’s) for householders in the Merseyside area wishing to recycle and dispose of their own waste.
  • The MRWA and Veolia Community Fund 2018/19 has seen 14 community groups from Merseyside and Halton receive a funding boost to help make the region a cleaner and greener place. The financial support will see the groups help reduce household waste, encourage recycling and resource re-use, and prevent carbon emissions. For more information see http://www.merseysidewda.gov.uk/waste-strategy/community-fund/community-fund-201819/

[i] The Merseyside and Halton Waste Composition Study 2015/16 found 39.1% (approx 140,000 tonnes) of food waste in residual bins, of which 63.9% (approx 90,000 tonnes) was avoidable.

[ii] WRAP Surplus and Waste in the UK report