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Poplar Cook and Eat Course


This Cook & Eat course provided local residents with knowledge about healthy eating and shopping on a budget, increased confidence in cooking healthily and ways of making changes to their lifestyles for improved health. Food and hygiene training was also provided, increasing the skills base of participants who were also enabled to pass their new skills and knowledge on to others in the community.



  • inspire, enable and motivate the community to eat more healthily
  • reduce social isolation, build community cohesion and celebrate different cultural and ethnic traditions through cooking
  • showcase, where possible, local, seasonal and community produced food
  • address current barriers to healthier eating and show how local & seasonal foods can be a convenient and more cost effective option
  • engage people in other Well London activities

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Community consultation in the area revealed that residents were concerned over their family eating habits but did not know how to change this for the better. A recurring problem was the high takeaway/convenience food culture and lack of fruit and vegetable consumption in people's diets. Many local people were on low incomes or were unemployed and had family members with long term health conditions such as diabetes, coronary heart disease or obesity.

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The course was promoted through local health guide volunteers who were engaged to conduct door-to-door outreach and visit local organisations, schools and GP surgeries to talk to people about the course. Small talks were also given at local Sure Start Centres, with a focus on the international cooking theme. 5,000 leaflets with information on the course were also handed out locally.

The course specifically targeted local residents who were currently suffering from a poor diet. Recruitment efforts were also made to ensure attendees were representative of different sections of the community including ethnic and socio-economic groups, and that the initiative was inter-generational.

43 people officially attended the 15-week course, with some dropping out due to circumstantial reasons and others joining in at a later time.

A pre-course questionnaire was carried out to assess some of the real issues faced by residents. The survey revealed that most of the participants were not meeting government guidelines of eating five portions of fruit/vegetable a day and were regular consumers of takeaways and convenience food.

Initial sessions focused on making food diaries, understanding health and barriers to healthy eating. One of the barriers identified was cost and as a result, two financial education training sessions run by BRAC UK were incorporated into the course. Participants looked at how healthy eating could be cost effective and had the opportunity to use their newfound budgeting confidence to purchase cheap and healthy food in their local area and supermarkets.

Following the budget training, the 15-week course consisted of 8 weeks of cookery lessons and a further 5 weeks of nutritional lectures.

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The impact of the course on peoples' lives was reported as very positive. Towards the end of the course, a session was held on managing difficulties and barriers to change. Participants received a book on personal change and changing lifestyles to complement the changes they were making in their lives, to help them to continue these changes and to support their family to change. Participants also stood up and shared what they learnt from the course and one change they will try to hold on to, which was incredibly inspiring and hopeful.

Half of the course was run in schools and parents felt encouraged to start up cooking sessions as part of the weekly coffee morning. Parents at Mayflower School have now started to run morning cookery sessions once a week.

The end of course party where people brought their own food went very well and participants were very sad that the course had come to an end. There was a lot of demand for further sessions from many school parents after running half of the course at the local school, with some wanting to run regular sessions. There is significant potential for ongoing sessions to be established within the community, run by graduates of the course.

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The course concluded with a feedback session to assess the effectiveness of the course. The participants reported that the course gave them a valuable introduction to world cuisines, an improved understanding of health and knowledge of how important it was to eat healthily to ensure they and their children had a healthier future. All participants felt more confident about making changes to their family eating habits and 70% had already made some changes in their lifestyle.

15 participants completed level 2 accredited training in Basic Food & Hygiene and received certificates. Five of them also started cookery sessions at their local neighbourhood centre or their children's school. 15 other participants took level 1 in Food & Hygiene in Bengali, four of whom indicated they wanted to start healthy cookery sessions in their own centre.

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  • Having a nutritionist present made a huge difference to the delivery of the course as it complemented the cook's role, working with them to select healthy ingredients
  • The nutritionist was also good at relating to the participants, the food the participants ate and gave recommendations on different food types
  • Including a session where children were involved was very good and brought greater meaning to family meals
  • One participant commented that the 'from around the world cooking needed to be longer', while other participants felt that 15 weeks was not long enough
  • It was suggested that running courses in a local school in the future should be promoted as this generated very good responses, exemplified by this course

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