Fair Food Transformation Fund: independent review

Fair Food Transformation Fund (FFTF) was set up to support initiatives aimed at reducing food poverty and reliance on emergency food aid.

This document is part of a collection

2 Fair Food Transformation Fund Outcomes

This chapter is divided into five sections. The first provides some general information regarding the FFTF, drawing on data from all projects. The latter four sections contain our findings relating to outcomes from FFTF projects, drawing on the 19 case studies. These sections explore: how projects modified their services to ensure the dignity of participants was paramount, how projects were able to provide emergency food aid in a way that preserved their participants’ dignity, how projects tried to address food insecurity and the relationship projects built between communities and the services they provided.

2.1 About the Fair Food Transformation Fund Projects

The infographic on the next page outlines the key features of the FFTF across the two rounds covered by this review.

2.1.1 Participant numbers

The number of participants who accessed FFTF projects varied. Projects reported that there could be between 60 participants (e.g. regular users) or 2,500 participants (e.g. people engaging with the service for a one-off event). Some were additionally working indirectly with a larger number of people – FareShare partnerships were an example of this. Most projects reported a regular attendance (e.g. at weekly meetings or drop-in sessions) of between 10 and 200 people. Volunteer numbers increased with FFTF funding level, and were between five and 20 people for most projects. Projects reported that these volunteers were able to develop skills and receive training during the projects.

There were challenges in providing an overall estimate on participant numbers across all projects due to the various data collection methods being employed by different projects. With this proviso, we would estimate that the 33 projects were regularly working with around 2,000 participants and had engaged, in some capacity, with around 12,000 participants.

Demographic data describing participants was not available from most projects. Despite this, many described seeing a mix of demographics engaging in their services – for example, isolated older people, low income families. Some projects found themselves – by chance or design – working with specific groups.


2.1.2 Project activities

The projects ran a wide range of activities, including: food-related activities (lunches, breakfasts, evening meals and/or cafes); ways of accessing free or cheap groceries such as communities’ larders; gardening workshops; food handling training; and one-off community events with food and entertainment. These were run alongside: English classes, budgeting skills, income maximisation clinics or music workshops, to name a few examples.

Project opening hours varied considerably depending on the sorts of activities projects provided. Not all projects provided information. Some cafés opened four days per week or provided meals four evenings a week, while others ran a community meal, drop-in sessions, or classes weekly or fortnightly.

2.2 Projects were developing more dignified approaches to addressing food insecurity

All FFTF projects adopted some of the dignity principles originally laid out by the Independent Working Group. Recognising the social value of food was the principle most commonly practiced by projects. Many projects struggled to provide participants with greater ability to make choices. This was largely driven by the limited foods the projects had access to, resulting from constrained resources for creating meals and food parcels. Where choice was provided, it was choice relating to how participants engaged with the project.

How case study projects progressed against each of the four dignity principles is described in more detail below.

2.2.1 Involving people in the design of services

Successful projects took the needs of the community to be foundational to the design and delivery of their service. Staff knowledge of the community and inclusion of the community in service design ensured services provided support that was relevant to their community. The involvement of local people in project design took many forms across the projects and did not seem to vary significantly between transition projects and food justice projects. One point of difference was that food justice models had more prior experience in involving participants in projects, whereas transition projects were more reliant on formal mechanics to increase involvement. Start Up Stirling was a particularly good example of staff and volunteers listening to what participants were saying in informal settings, and then modify service design accordingly. This stands in contrast to more traditional models that might formally survey participants about how they feel about a service.

Participants most commonly became involved in projects that encouraged service users to become volunteers within that same service, taking on responsibility for supporting or delivering particular elements of a project, or where committees of service users were established to discuss the development and improvement of the project.

St Pauls Youth Forum provides a good example of how prior participants can move into volunteer roles. One St Paul’s volunteer, who had attended the service as a child, had worked with the project for eight years. This individual became important in structuring the FFTF project at St Pauls. They reflected on how the service numbers had increased, and how project work had transformed the surrounding derelict land into an impressive garden that provided food for the project.

“Now we’ve got the garden, a wood fired pizza oven we made ourselves from mud, and we’ve even got bee hives and that…got three polytunnels too. We had some hens, but the foxes got them, we are going to make the fence better and get some more. There’s a performing space here too with speakers, and a projector.”
- Volunteer at St. Paul’s Youth Forum

Similarly, the Everlasting Foodbank had a core group of volunteers who met with the development worker to discuss improvements. Importantly, many of the volunteers had been recruited from the food bank element of the project. This meant that those who helped at the community meals had direct experience of food poverty and understand the needs of others experiencing this better and what works.

“I know because I went to a food bank, to just keep it light-hearted, the students who volunteer at the food bank are great…. but they also don’t really know, and it matters who does it…people need to have understanding, the more down to earth the better”

Talking about the food bank: “It’s important they recruit from there, because that means they have experience and they actually understand”

Both volunteers and participants at the Everlasting Foodbank

Steering groups had mixed success across the surveyed projects. Yoker Parish Church were able to make a steering group, comprised of volunteers, participants and members of the church, work effectively to shape the future direction of the project. This success can be partly explained by the presence of community members on the steering group, and the resultant links between different communities in Yoker that the group established. The steering group had been carefully selected or, as a member of staff put it, “headhunted” for their local expertise and skills.

St. Paul’s Youth Forum was also engaging its young people in the decision-making process. One aspect of this engagement was the youth committee, where young people were able to share ideas and have their say. This process had been made fun, meaning that the committee was well represented and attended. For those who were less vocal or confident, there was an anonymous suggestions box at the community meals.

Participants, staff and projects valued the bottom-up design and delivery of their services. For example, St Paul’s Youth Forum carefully designed the location, hired the appropriate mix of staff (mostly men – their target demographic was young men in the area) and tailored the service around a male role model approach recognising the issue of violence in the area.

Ownership appears to be important for the dignity and sustainability of the project. A number of projects actively encouraged the community to take ownership of their services. In doing so, dignity was increased as the projects were something people felt part of rather than attending for help. It also encouraged the sustainability of the project as people took on more responsibility for the delivery and, in some cases, the expansion of the project.

Pilton Community Health Project (PCHP) was particularly successful in achieving this. Through a mixture of peer-led groups, alongside holistic support and good signposting, the project was able to empower participants. Two interviewees had gone on to create their own groups, contributing towards the sustainability of the project. The first participant-led group created was a single dad’s group. As the interviewee was a single dad himself, he had both personal experience of the support needed and privileged access to local residents who might benefit. The second participant-led project was the creation of a community orchard on a disused piece of land. This was both creating an improved local environment and raising interest in the project as residents could see something happening. The ongoing support from PCHP was important to the success of both of these projects. PCHP’s advice and expertise guided the project to sources of funding, equipment and assistance with any challenges.

Successful service design and delivery relied on nuanced understandings of the community where the project was embedded. Staff in a number of projects emphasised the importance of applying best practice to their specific contexts. In doing so, many recognised that a successful service model in one area may not be replicable in a different community.

Start-Up Stirling and Moray Foodbank are good examples of projects where staff have made an active effort to really understand the local context and what is needed. In both cases this has led to successful projects that have been able to expand. The desire to create something “Stirlingshire shaped” was the reason that this project chose not to become part of the Trussell Trust. Though they were careful not to “reinvent the wheel” they felt that by being independent they would find it easier to adapt to their community.

2.2.2 Recognising the social value of food

In many projects that emphasised social and community interaction, food became incidental and secondary. The emphasis on social and community interaction did not vary between food justice projects and transition projects. Transition projects did, however, present more options for people to receive food aid without any social element.

The most common ways that projects used the social value of food were through the use of community meals or by having food or a meal as part of a longer session involving other social activities - such as a knitting club or arts and crafts group. While food was still an important part of the projects, the focus on social interaction reduced the perception of the experience as ‘food charity’ for some of the interviewed participants. The social value of food was also important in “getting people through the door”. Yoker Parish Church, for example, advertised their service as a “night out” and put effort into making the night special with tablecloths and candles to make it more like a restaurant.

Participants commented across projects that they valued the experience and the human contact that the services provided through food:

“I dinnae come for a tea, I come for a blether!”
Participant at Pilmeny Development Project

“We did a small evaluation a couple of weeks ago and realised that more than half the people are coming for the community not the soup. Because of our experience of emergency food aid, we know the amount of people who need emergency food, so the project was based on that. We knew there were lonely people too, but we didnae expect the amount of lonely people, and it’s those same people that are coming back every week because now it’s part of their social calendar.”
Staff member at Food For Thought West Dunbartonshire

“It was not just learning about cooking but also a social thing because you’re meeting other people who are not in the same situation but facing difficulties in their situation which they were coming here for.”
Participant at PCHP

“Nowadays people just don’t actually listen, it really helps to just have someone to talk to, to know that someone cares.”
Participant at Start Up Stirling Food bank

2.2.3 Providing opportunities for people to contribute

It was found that a number of projects used opportunities for all participants to contribute as a way to blur the lines between the “helpers” and the “helped” – this concept is discussed further in section 3.3 of this report. In addition, a number of projects created more formal ways for people to contribute. At Food for Thought West Dunbartonshire, for example, many of those in need volunteer as part of the Christmas meal. Similarly, a volunteer interviewed at Kate’s Kitchen had gone from not really cooking at home to teaching other participants at the community meals how to cook and even filling in for the chef on occasion.

These formal volunteering opportunities provided an important way for people to be involved and receive support without feeling like they were receiving charity, as illustrated in the box below.

“There are people that want to come for lunch but don’t wannae be seen as a client. They’ll come and volunteer and have lunch. We know that already because we run a Christmas dinner, this year will be our seventh. The first year we started we had 6 people, last year we had 98…the majority of 98 who came for Christmas day dinner last year, probably 40 of them were volunteers but they also ate Christmas lunch because they would have been at home on their own you know?... so, they come for their Christmas dinner under the guise of being a volunteer, it grows arms and legs on its own.”
– Volunteer at Food for Thought West

Dunbartonshire “I help in the kitchen and sometimes folk… clients… will comment saying, oh I’ve never used sweet potato before, I says neither have I but I’ve had some grated it into a soup then blended it and had a pan of little cubes of sweet potato, just added it in with some ordinary potato and stuff, and it gives it a different taste, and she says oh I’ve never tasted it, and I says well do you wanna try it? I’ll bring a wee portion in for ya. Folk will say have you ever used a sweet potato or a parsnip? And I’ll say yeah, I have here, it’s good in soups, or you can put it in curries.”
– Volunteer at Kate’s Kitchen

The Everlasting Foodbank exemplifies how FFTF projects created a community in which people gave and received goods. All participants at the food bank were encouraged to donate to a clothes bank. There were also examples of members of the community providing for each other – one participant had curtains bought for their new flat by another participant, for example.

Generally, food justice projects were able to more consistently blur the line between “helpers” and the “helped” than transition projects. Some transition projects retained tighter recruitment methods for volunteers to ensure that they felt confident in their ability to respond to the perceived high level of need of their participants. Projects that recruited more heavily from their current participants found services being taken-up more readily. The reciprocal nature of the relationship these volunteers had with the projects reduced negative feelings towards using the service – people felt less conscious about using the services as they had already given their time to them.

2.2.4 Providing participants with the power to choose

There were a number of ways in which projects provided choice to participants. Several projects provided greater choice in how participants could access emergency food provision. A number of services provided alternatives to the traditional food bank practice of turning up at a certain time and receiving a set food parcel to take home.

Choice was further created in how participants received food aid from transition projects. Some transition projects recognised that their participants may not want, or be able to, attend community meals or visit a food bank. In response to this concern, delivery services run by volunteers were provided. This service worked to engage those who otherwise would not be able to travel to a food bank due to: responsibilities, limited mobility or lack of transport.

Another step away from the traditional model shown by transition projects was in providing greater flexibility in the times that food banks were open.

“I’ve been previously to food banks. This one is slightly different, they are usually at set times and you need to get a voucher. They are generally only open for one for an hour or two, and you just collect the food parcel and go. It’s fine if you live nearby but not if you don’t. This is the only one I have heard of to deliver food and be so flexible, it’s the flexibility that is really helpful.”
– Participant at The First Base Agency

Projects sought to provide greater choice in the food provided in community meals and food parcels. Given their reliance on food donations and constrained budgets, most projects found it difficult to provide choice in this way. One successful approach being used by a few transition projects was a ‘community larder’ where there were a range of products on display that people could choose from, rather than a set food parcel.

Moray Foodbank took this one step further and set up a range of community larders in a number of community service locations – a supported accommodation service where the food is available in the shared kitchen facilities, as described below.

“…the difference that it has made to the people who use our services is huge. There is that bit more dignity in being able to do our larder there, so residents can come in and have a wee look at what we’ve got, and it doesn’t feel quite the same as getting food parcels.”
- Staff member at a partnership agency of Moray Foodbank

“For the first time, we are asking people what they want and that’s something that we are not very good at doing overall you know is it? With a food parcel, we don’t ask the people who are using it how they want it to work and how it makes them feel to be reliant on it.”
– Staff member at Moray Foodbank

Projects attempted to increase choice around food by providing cooking classes for participants. These classes were met with mixed success across projects. They varied from having high uptakes and positive outcomes to not having enough interest to run. Food justice programmes had great success with their cooking classes as they engaged a greater existing community base. Transition projects needed to build informal communities and participant’s trust before users felt comfortable attending classes:

“What we’ve found is there are cooking sessions and things going on but a lot of them don’t really want to go. They want to do it here, where they feel a bit safer…. that’s why we’ve identified that, if we are going to support you, we need to find ways of making it work here.”
- Staff member at Moray Foodbank

A large number of the projects involved in the study provided a range of other activities as part of their project – such as games, knitting, quizzes and crafts. Multiple activities often ran at once, enabling participants to choose when and how they interacted with different parts of the service. Generally food justice projects had a wider variety of other activities as part of their project than transition projects.

2.3 A more dignified approach to emergency food aid

The FFTF recognised that the need for projects to provide emergency food aid in the short-term could not be avoided. Therefore, it asked projects to look at ways in which traditional food bank services could be delivered and used differently.

“I would say our food banks are being used by more people in different ways now. We have a wider network of people because they’ll come for the meals, and then they ask for more because they don’t have anything at home. We’ve probably a greater sense of need than we did before where it was only the real desperate people that would come, whereas now we have the people who are not at the extreme level of desperation.”
Staff member at Castlemilk Parish Church

All 33 projects provided at least some direct provision of food, with 31 providing food parcels. Among the 19 case study projects, 13 still provided emergency food as part of their mix of activities.

Transition projects more frequently provided food bank services than food justice projects did, and were often more ‘traditional’ in their approach. Most projects had given careful thought about how to transition away from a traditional food bank model and increase the dignity of their provision. For transition projects, this was primarily done through the introduction of community meals.

Having a strong understanding and buy in by the project staff and volunteers to the principles of dignified food provision was vital to enabling projects to transition well. The one organisation that had not made as much progress as others was still working on achieving buy in from staff and volunteers about the importance of changing their approach, and staff and volunteers did not yet have the needed understanding of dignified food provision or the four dignity principles. Instead, the Fair Food Transformation Fund income was going to a partner organisation that the food bank saw as a separate and distinct service ‘over there’ that had little to do with their core business of providing food.

Projects that drew on visitors to food banks as a source of volunteers were able to accelerate this buy in as their experience of visiting food banks could help inform newer and more dignified ways of helping others in similar situations.

“It should be good enough for you. It makes me so angry when people are willing to give someone else food they wouldn’t eat themselves, it sends a message…A lot of people don’t have the money to go out for meals. I want to be able to compete with other cafes, be able to give people the restaurant experience without the price tag.”
Staff member at The Everlasting Foodbank

Transition projects, such as The Everlasting Foodbank and Moray Foodbank, tended to emphasise food quality and choice as critical to dignity in food provision, often as food provision was still the central focus of this type of project. This commitment was illustrated by a development worker at The Everlasting Foodbank, who emphasised the importance of tasting and eating the food, ensuring high quality by measuring the food against their own personal standards.

Kate’s Kitchen and Central and West Integration Network improved the dignity of their food parcel provision by placing these in discrete locations within the project.

“It should be good enough for you. It makes me so angry when people are willing to give someone else food they wouldn’t eat themselves, it sends a message…A lot of people don’t have the money to go out for meals. I want to be able to compete with other cafes, be able to give people the restaurant experience without the price tag.”
– Staff member at The Everlasting Foodbank

The Everlasting Foodbank had a card system which entitled holders to free meals. This offered discrete access to free food as the card looked like commonly held loyalty cards.

Start Up Stirling helped participants make better use of the food provided by handing out high quality recipe cards. While other projects also did this, Start Up Sterling had particular success. This might be explained by Start Up Stirling’s supplementation of donated food with food they had purchased wholesale, as this increased their recipe’s appeal.

As a result of these shifts away from the traditional model, several projects reported that the way that people engaged with food parcels was changing. Participants at Woodlands Community Development Trust reported feeling pleasantly surprised that the café was not like a traditional food bank. For example, one interviewee described the importance of having both the social benefits of a meal combined with food aid provision. This was deemed important for the dignity of participants. The Woodland’s project shifted from a more traditional food bank model by providing a choice in what food the participants were able to take home.

2.4 Addressing the underlying causes of food insecurity

The models used by the FFTF projects can reduce the need for emergency food provision indirectly. The case study projects did this in three main ways. These ways are outlined below.

2.4.1 Improving people’s ability to afford food by showing them how to cook cheap and nutritious meals

Many of the case study projects were doing this, with food justice projects especially adept at providing this service. This was achieved by demonstrating how participants could reduce waste in cooking by introducing users to new (cheaper and nutritious) foods and teaching them how to use these in their cooking, as well as helping them make food go further through bulk cooking.

For example, Beith Trust provided cookery classes for local parents. Participants were shown what can and cannot be frozen. Parents felt this reduced the amount of food they waste and helped them to make use of supermarket deals on products. Similarly Stepwell ran a 6-week cookery course for those experiencing food insecurity. This course taught participants how to use ingredients commonly found in food parcels to cook different meals. This reduced food bank demand by teaching participants how use food parcels more effectively.

It was found that transition projects that added a cooking element were less successful in gaining participants than food justice projects. Lower attendance was more acute when the cooking element was more formal. A partner organisation of Moray Foodbank explained that this was partly because many of their clients had chaotic lives and thus regular events could be difficult to attend, but also because ‘formal’ teaching classes had negative connotations for some people.

2.4.2 Increasing people’s awareness of other support and services

Several projects sought to act as a conduit for their participants to access other support and services. A number of these projects were seeking to connect their project directly with these services, for example, by having Citizens’ Advice attend or participate in their project. While some projects struggled to get direct engagement from external organisations, other projects managed to find ways to work with them and provide advice and signposting to participants through this. Signposting and direct engagement of other organisation proved equally effective in both food justice and transition projects.

“I’ve been getting to know the other agencies through this place, means I’ve got a foot through the door in other places, coz I know other addiction places and things like social workers, job centre, you get to know them face to face or through the phone, they know my voice. They always phone us, I get to know their voice too.”
Volunteer at Food for Thought West Dunbartonshire

Involvement from external organisations ranged from formal sessions run by other organisations to (more commonly) informal support. This more informal support tended to consist of staff from other organisations participating in activities, such as community meals and being available to speak with participants throughout these. There were many examples of participants feeling more informed about what support they could access and how to access it. This primarily included: education and training, benefits advice, or other community engagement groups and activities they could belong to.

2.4.3 Helping people to increase their income to improve affordability

A smaller number of projects were doing this. These activities included help to access training, benefits advice and job search. A number of the participants had been able to find employment, progress into training or increase their benefits as a result of the projects. In transition projects this more often took the form of income maximisation through benefit support, rather than progress into employment.

“Often people don’t understand things like smart meters. One of the biggest things is identifying the potential services someone can apply for, the grants they can get. Income maximisation is the thing that makes the difference. I act as a conduit to these services, and a rapid response.”
Drop in Citizens’ Advice Bureau Advisor at Start-Up Stirling

2.4.4 Impact on uptake of emergency food provision

The three activities described above seemed to be leading to an increase in uptake of emergency food provision by those who would not previously have considered using a traditional food bank, as they were changing the perception of receiving emergency food provision. This was either through the food banks that several projects were running within their organisation, or through FFTF project activity.

A sustained reduction in the numbers of people who require emergency food aid must include long-term measures designed for moving people out of poverty. This was done throughout some of the projects, with examples of people being helped to move closer to employment, make better use of their money, and access welfare rights advice. The success these projects had at engaging those most in need provided an opportunity to address the underlying causes of their food insecurity.

For example, a volunteer at Woodlands Community Development Trust had managed to find paid employment as a result of the support they received at this project. Similarly, Castlemilk Parish Church offered very flexible employment opportunities for training and support, enabling a single parent facing multiple barriers to work to gain employment and new skills. One volunteer we spoke to at Food For Thought West Dunbartonshire suggested that the “people skills” and the connections they made through this project would help them to become a social worker in the near future.

Projects are unlikely to have the resources and expertise to tackle issues such as employment, education and training, health or social care barriers to employment or to provide detailed benefits advice. They can, however, establish a trusted relationship with their participants and an ability to help participants access other help and support. In terms of the Employability and Skills 5 Stage Pathway[18], for example, these projects fulfil roles in Stage 1 (reaching out to individuals, supporting people into regular activity and positive routines, and helping them to connect with others) and could help participants make progress to Stage 2 (providing information, encouragement and help to overcome barriers to employment).[19] This is true of both transition and food justice projects, as both were effective in reaching out to individuals, supporting them, connecting them with others, and getting them to do regular activities.

2.5 The link between community development and food insecurity

The social value of food has had obvious impacts on the social isolation felt by participants. Social inclusion appeared to be a highly appreciated product of using the social value of food as a way into addressing food insecurity among participants, volunteers and staff. All projects sought to improve the dignity in accessing food insecurity by more closely linking provision with community engagement. All projects established some degree of a two-way relationship between community engagement and food provision. This link was particularly important for projects as a way to find new and effective ways of engaging people in need.

“The nutrition side is really important…but yes I also feel less isolated. I have more security knowing that I have someone there who will help me.”
Participant at First Base Agency

2.5.1 Creating a community

Across most projects, harnessing the social value of food helped participants to feel more part of a community that cared about them.

Coming together to share food through community meals, and participating in the other activities that projects had started, allowed participants to socialise in a way that improved their sense of belonging. Community meals were a particular important feature of transition projects, acting as a gateway between attending a food bank and becoming more involved in local community.

A number of projects succeeded in bringing together different groups within an area, increasing the sense of community between them. This was felt to be unlikely to have happened otherwise. Examples of this include the integration of refugees into the broader community and bringing younger people together with older generations. Participants discussed how they were learning more about people from different backgrounds and how this had reduced divisions within their neighbourhood.

“Quite a lot of retired people come as well and it’s maybe the only time of the day that they come out… It’s really important for communities to have a kind of focal point that they can come to.”
Participant at Woodlands Community Development Trust

Other projects were able to make use of the shared experiences of their participants to help vulnerable groups feel like they belonged to a community that understood them, their experiences and their challenges. For example, several projects used volunteers with similar backgrounds and experiences to participants. This seemed particularly strong in some transition projects, where the food bank element had been used as a supply of volunteers with experiences of food poverty.

Projects found that events and activities around food were an effective way to build their community. Communities became closer - discussing local issues and how best to tackle them. A range of other activities and projects were developed as a result.

Through community meals and drop-ins at the Barn, users met and formed new groups relating to specific needs. Several of these groups were not food-related. One example was weekly woman-only exercise class at the Barn. This class improved the attendee’s physical health, but also acted a safe space in which to socialise. Such non-food related groups were more common as part of food justice projects.

“I’m just on my own now, I’m divorced. I was used to a big family of eight brothers, and it’s just nice to have that homely family feeling again. That’s because of the meals… wasn’t anywhere to go otherwise, not like this.”
Participant at Kyle of Sutherland

2.5.2 Using this community to achieve food security outcomes

Community engagement activities appeared to be an effective way of attracting people facing food insecurity into services that could help them address this issue. This section provides examples of community measures that were used in order to increase FFTF programme usage.

The Central and West Integration Network timed their community meals to start as their English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) classes ended. The ESOL classes acted as a way into the project’s services and participants became aware of, and comfortable with participating in, the community meal.

Performances and entertainment at community meals helped people to engage with food-related activities. Participants at Woodlands Community Development Trust remarked on the ability of communal music to bring people together, breaking down barriers that were otherwise hard to remove. It was felt that music fostered a positive and friendly environment, acting as a “focal point” for the community. This both increased uptake of community meals but also contributed to the integration of different cultures as they were able to share their music with one another. This cultural integration was reducing barriers between different cultures in the neighbourhood, and in doing so building a stronger sense of community.

Arts and crafts classes were one of the most common ways that projects encouraged engagement in food-related activities. These types of groups existed at many of the projects visited, including Pilmeny Development Project, Kyle of Sutherland Development Trust, Kate’s Kitchen, Bridging the Gap and Beith Community Development Trust, among others. Several participants had become involved in community meals and food-related activities through initial engagement with arts and crafts groups. For example, at Kate’s Kitchen one participant mentioned that they had become part of the healthy eating class through initially being involved in the sewing group.

“It’s amazing the amount of other cultures that actually come…music definitely brings them out of their shell.”
Participant at Woodlands Community Development Trust

Kyle of Sutherland Development Trust had a range of projects wrapping around its community meals. Outreach work with elderly people in the community, such as the “cosy homes” winter project, acted to promote their community meals through word of mouth. Staff from Kyle of Sutherland Development Trust carried out home surveys for elderly residents, helping to ensure they had warmth in the winter:

“It was excellent for older people, they checked the houses for insulation and gave advice on draft exclusion, heavier curtains, craft group for knitting blankets, super idea.”
Participant at Kyle of Sutherland Development Trust

Positive initial experiences, as above, increased people’s interest in the project and in finding out what other services they were providing. People were more likely to attend community meals after being involved in these wider community projects as they already had familiarity with, and therefore trust in, Kyle of Sutherland Development Trust.

At Kate’s Kitchen and Stepwell Consultancy Ltd, relationships formed first within the projects extended beyond this, thus building the local community. This can be exemplified by a participant at Stepwell. The participant developed a friendship with a homeless participant while attending a cooking class. This friendship reduced both of their social isolation and resulted in stronger community ties.

“I started helping one girl who is homeless. She keeps calling and we meet up sometimes. She gets along with my daughter as well, which is important because she is quite isolated due to illness.”
Participant at Stepwell Consultancy Ltd

“People are sharing and supporting one another within the cook school and I see that continuing beyond the cook school.”
Staff Member at Stepwell Consultancy Ltd

St. Paul’s Youth Forum used community engagement activities to identify the barriers its participants faced in increasing their income to move out of food insecurity. The combination of informal conversations with participants at community meals, points raised from its youth committee and input from local volunteers and staff, led to a recognition that local transport links were poor and that this was being compounded by a lack of access to private vehicles among residents. These factors restricted local people’s ability to travel, and so the opportunities they could access. As a response to this they provided participants with access to bicycles.

For at least one participant this enabled them to sustain a job they would otherwise not have been able to. Others felt that the lack of reliable transport impeded their access to social events. Another participant had previously lost a job due to punctuality problems brought about by unreliable public transport.


Email: Catriona Rooke

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