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Aberdeen University food heroes strike again (with a little help from Jamie Oliver)

Anna Kebke, co-ordinator of the Aberdeen student group behind the new Community Cookery School.
Anna Kebke, co-ordinator of the Aberdeen student group behind the new Community Cookery School.

An Aberdeen student group which supported people through lockdown by delivering thousands of pounds of food is now helping people learn to cook healthy meals.

The Foodsharing Service, set up by the University of Aberdeen’s Shared Planet Society, distributes surplus food from supermarkets to those in need, or unable to leave their homes due to the pandemic.

Now the students have gone a step further by setting up a community cookery school.

Tesco selected the group as a “community hero” following their efforts during lockdown.

This was part of a scheme which aims to help families and individuals prepare low cost, healthy meals.

Reaching out to the community

Anna Kebke is co-ordinator of the group, and a final year marine biology student.

She said: “The Community Cookery School aims to reach out to households to help them cook healthy and delicious meals.

“Through the Foodsharing Service we have already developed relationships with members of the local community.

“A key component of the programme is being able to offer this support where it is needed.

“We used our existing relationships with service users to identify people keen to take part.

“In more normal times, the sessions would involve getting practical skills in the kitchen but as this isn’t currently possible, we had to look to virtual methods instead.”

The student volunteers received additional online training in areas such as knife skills and food hygiene for the Aberdeen community cookery school.

They then recorded instructional videos for three selected recipes, developed by star chef Jamie Oliver.

Aberdeen community cookery school is ‘about more than recipes’

“One of the key differences with the recipes is that not only are they healthy and nutritious, they have been designed so that ingredients can be easily substituted,” added Anna.

“They also use items that are frequently in surplus and so feature regularly in the supplies delivered through projects like ours.

“But the scheme is about more than just providing recipes.

“It is about training and supporting volunteers so that these skills and ideas can be passed on at community level.

“If they train 300 community cooks and each of those supports 15 service users, then we can reach 4,500 families around the UK.”

The free sessions, which started in the spring, have received positive feedback.

‘A reminder of how easy cooking can be’

One participant said: “I really enjoyed the cooking classes, it gave me something different to do during the long lockdown.

“It was a good reminder of how easy it can be to cook a healthy and delicious meal.”

For Anna, about to start work with Marine Scotland, working with the Foodsharing Service has shaped her university experience.

She said: “I’ve been delighted to be part of both the Foodsharing Service and the Community Cookery School.

“Seeing the difference that schemes like this can make has been a really important part of my time at university.

“I’ve met some wonderful people and it has helped me feel connected to the city and the community in which I live.

“I’m hopeful that even after graduation this summer I can continue to be involved in some capacity.”

Details of the foodsharing service and the Aberdeen community cookery school can be found at www.facebook.com/sharedplanetsociety

The group are also seeking additional student and staff volunteers.

Anyone interested should contact shared.planet@ausa.org.uk

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