After three years of successful delivery, QSA has stopped delivering Bags of Taste, which will be succeeded by the new Cook Up project.
From 2018 until early 2021, QSA delivered the Bags of Taste project in Tower Hamlets, as a franchisee of the national Bags of Taste scheme. During this time, nearly 250 local residents learnt how to cook healthy, tasty meals for less than £1 per portion. The project helped people to find alternatives to highly processed and takeaway foods, by regularly cooking nutritious food at home.
Until the lockdowns caused by the Covid-19 pandemic from 2020, QSA’s Bags of Taste courses were delivered in a convivial group environment, with participants watching cooking demonstrations by our project staff, before cooking the meals in groups, supported by volunteers. Everyone then sat down to eat together, before having the opportunity to take home ingredients to continue cooking at home. The courses involved lots of practical tips on where to find fresh, reasonably priced ingredients locally. In the face-to-face courses, participants had the opportunity to learn eight delicious recipes. Amongst Bags of Taste participants during financial year 2019-20, there was a 38% increase in people saying that they felt confident cooking at home.
In 2020 Bags of Taste was interrupted by the lockdown restrictions. From November 2020 onwards, QSA trialled an online form of delivery, with filmed cooking demonstrations provided by our project manager, which participants were able to follow in their homes either live or recorded. All of the necessary ingredients and instructions were delivered to participants’ homes.
These online sessions were successful, with around 40 people taking part, and during evaluation 47% of respondents felt that their health had improved since starting the course.
However with our dynamic Bags of Taste manager, Mostofa Uddin, moving on to a new role with another organisation, QSA has taken stock of the project. In view of our recent merger with Quaker Homeless Action and our emerging ambitions to develop new services for people affected by homelessness, we have decided to stop delivering Bags of Taste. Instead QSA is channelling energy into its new Cook Up project for people who do not have access to a kitchen; we plan to pilot this in Islington from May 2021 – more information here.