QSA's supported cooking sessions for people without access to their own kitchen facilities are proving successful, and the project will now be an ongoing part of our work with people affected by homelessness in London.
We began piloting Cook Up earlier this year after recognising, through our research on homelessness issues and services, that people affected by homelessness have limited options when it comes to food choices.
Cook Up provides a safe and welcoming space for people who are homeless to improve their health and wellbeing through cooking. We have hired a large, fully equipped kitchen space in Islington where we host regular socially distanced sessions for people who do not have their own kitchen to come and prepare their own meals. Cook Up is available for people who are homeless, including people sleeping rough, sofa surfing, squatting, living in a hostel, night shelter or B&B, living in poor conditions that affect their health, or at risk of violence or abuse at home.
To date, many people using the service are asylum seekers living in accommodation without kitchen facilities. Many of the attendees batch cook meals to share with others in their temporary accommodation. Over 300 meals have already been prepared during the project's pilot phase.
"Being encouraged and trusted around a professionally furnished kitchen gives a sense of dignity which is not promoted in other programs. Plus you meet other cooks, share music, laughs, knowledge and wonderful meals."
Brian, cook Up
Evaluation of the pilot phase is ongoing, but it is already clear that the service is meeting a need. Our theory of change is that taking control over what to eat can build people's confidence to think about what other areas of their lives they can take control of to increase their wellbeing. And having the space and time to consider and prepare a meal, with advice to hand, leads to healthier eating choices, and hence better physical health.
On the strength of its performance to date, QSA has decided to make Cook Up an ongoing part of its work to support people affected by homelessness. We look forward to the continued evolution of this service.