Bedford Women’s Centre

How Food etc is helping women rebuild their lives

 2022 will be the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Bedford Women’s Centre. More than 300 women are supported every year through the various activities and services provided by the centre. Most of the women have suffered some form of domestic abuse. Tragically, numerous sources have reported that levels of domestic abuse rose alarmingly during the various lockdowns imposed during the pandemic.

The Centre supports people from all socio-economic backgrounds, with women young and old alike receiving support in recent times. Many women have endured chaotic lives when they first come to the Centre, and as well as providing immediate support, the Centre endeavours to find ways in which women can regain control of their lives, and connect with others who may have endured similar experiences, and who need to rebuild trust in others.

With this in mind, the Centre has been offering cooking courses led by the team at Food etc. These sessions take place once per week, and allow participants to learn new skills in a relaxed and friendly environment, and connect with others.

Charlotte Day runs the Centre, and she says: “we’re always looking for new ways to support women who need our help. Talking about and preparing food is a shared experience, and it helps provide the conditions for women to develop new relationships. Two of the ladies who met on the cookery sessions now meet independently for coffee, and it’s impossible to exaggerate how healthy this is for them. Many women come to us with very low levels of confidence and self-esteem, and this is one way in which we can help to address this.”

Charlotte adds: “there is a significant relationship between abuse and eating disorders, so these sessions are also helping many of the women who attend them to experience food in a more positive way. Sometimes five or six people will join a session, sometimes more. We encourage women to come for three or four sessions, but some enjoy it so much they stay for longer. We’re really pleased with how the Food etc sessions are progressing.”

We asked the ladies what they thought of our cookery sessions. Feedback included:

“I like meeting new people and trying new recipes using food I wouldn’t usually buy.”

“I enjoy experimenting with foods I haven’t tried before.”