Emily

Tell us a little about yourself

I am from Bedford, love to have my friends and family over for meals and barbecues and really enjoy how food can bring people together!

Why did you decide to volunteer with Food etc?

Working shifts as a nurse I sometimes have free time in the week that I wanted to spend doing something in the community.  Volunteering with Food etc is flexible and also means I can meet lots of new people and hopefully pass on some skills that will help in their lives and learn some skills to take home myself too.

What do you enjoy most about working with Food etc?

Spending time with children and their families brings lots of fun and smiles.  I have really enjoyed working in teams with other volunteers to deliver sessions and like the community aspect of Food etc, everyone is so supportive.

Have you had any challenges?

Each kitchen has its own challenges in terms of kit that is there to use (or not!).  But we work round it and it can be surprising what you can still whip up with a few resources.

What would you say to someone considering volunteering with Food etc?

Give it a go!  At first it felt out of my comfort zone but I have loved getting to know different families and facilitating the opportunity for them to make memories together (and some tasty food).  And if you need help just ask – we are all in it together!

What’s your go to healthy meal – inspire us?

I don’t make anything too complicated at home but for something filling and straight forward I like to make cottage or shepherds pie (with a bit of cheese on top!).

 

 

Helen

Tell us a little about yourself

I’m a post pandemic retiree who decided there was still far too much left to do in life to be working. So after a varied career in administration, computer programming, school support roles and marketing for a local charity I’ve resolved to spend less time on the computer and more time doing new things.  I love photography and other creative endeavours, am part of a local church community, and spend as much time as I can outdoors – walking and exploring.

Why did you decide to volunteer with Food etc?

It is one of my new things!  I became interested in healthy cooking after a health scare which had me looking into eating to improve heart health, blood sugar levels and cholesterol. I’ve ditched ultra-processed foods and learned a lot. Now I am keen to pass on a passion for cooking from scratch and help others into a healthier way of eating.

What do you enjoy most about working with Food etc?

I love the enthusiasm of children and their parents when they come to the sessions eager to spend time cooking together.  Then that big smile and thumbs up as they tuck into the food they have just prepared is so uplifting.

Have you had any challenges?

The biggest challenge was getting started – not knowing how running the sessions was going to go, but I needn’t have worried.   Other challenges include remembering what kitchen equipment is available as I plan each session and knowing how many are going to turn up to any session.  Oh, and there was the time I forgot to bring the potatoes!

What would you say to someone considering volunteering with Food etc?

It is a very supportive community you will be joining and you need never feel alone.  You will have someone alongside you to share the running of sessions and there are a variety of age groups you could be delivering to so come along, observe a few different sessions and you will soon see how you can fit in .  It is a really worthwhile and rewarding organisation to get involved in.

What’s your go to healthy meal – inspire us?

I try to always have some homemade tomato sauce in the freezer – then I can heat it up with added vegetables, tuna, or spinach and mozzarella and serve with some pea or lentil pasta. If I have the oven on with a bit of space on a shelf then in goes a tin or whole tomatoes with a dash of olive oil, pinch of salt and a chopped clove of garlic.  After 30 or 40 minutes, I take the potato masher to it and it is ready to freeze for those times when I need a quick but healthy dinner.  If I have plenty of time, then my go to meal to cook is a vegetable moussaka.  I do love an aubergine.

 

 

 

 

 

Simon

Tell us a little about yourself

I’ve lived in Bedford for the last 15 years and previously worked for Tech companies. Over the years we made and sold all sorts of kitchen appliances….from deep fat fryers to breadmakers and steam ovens. So, our shed is full of retired appliances!

Why did you decide to volunteer with Food etc?

I have experienced the positive benefits of cooking and eating tasty and nutritious food. Food etc are passionate about helping to inspire people about the fun and benefits of healthy cooking,

What do you enjoy most about working with Food Etc?

The volunteers are from really varied backgrounds, but all share the same passion to want to inspire others how to cook and eat tasty and nutritious food.

And Food etc are doing this in and around Bedfordshire.

Have you had any challenges?

The biggest challenge has been making sure that I can run the activity so it’s fun and interactive for younger children.

What would you say to someone considering volunteering with Food Etc?

Come along to some of our events and meet our Volunteers and the attendees on our courses. Have a look at our website and Social Media pages as they give a good overview of what we do.

What’s your go to healthy meal – inspire us?

It’s dhaal (lentils) and rice…super tasty, easy to cook and there’s loads of recipes to try.

Phil

Tell us a little about yourself

I trained as an actor/teacher and then spent 10 years in the theatre in and around Manchester. From there I worked as a lecturer in performing arts and a drama teacher before finishing off my teaching career as a SEN teaching assistant.

Why did you decide to volunteer with Food etc?

I saw a Facebook post about Food etc by our local MP, Mohammad Yasin, and thought that sounds just the ticket!

What do you enjoy most about working with Food etc?

Working alongside people and sharing their food that they’ve made is really good.

Have you had any challenges?

We have to adapt what we cook and how we show people how to do it to accommodate very varied skill levels, but that’s all part of the fun.

What would you say to someone considering volunteering with Food etc?

Sharing your enthusiasm for food with people who may be struggling a bit is immensely rewarding.

What’s your go to healthy meal – inspire us?

Most homemade food using fresh ingredients is almost always healthy but for me something like a red lentil tarka dal (with lots of garlic and chilli!!), a proper mint raita and some wholemeal chapati would fit the bill.

Rodrigo

Tell us about yourself

I am a qualified chef  who loves cooking at home too. I worked on a number of culinary extravaganzas in my native Brazil including the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics!

What do you enjoy most about working with Food etc?

I decided to volunteer with Food etc because I wanted to utilize my culinary skills and experience in a meaningful way, contributing to the community.  I’ve lived in Bedford for nearly 3 years and I wanted to give something back to the town I now call home.  I have a young baby who I want to teach to cook in future as well. So this has been a fantastic adventure and pleasant experience.

What do you enjoy most about working with Food etc?

I enjoy the opportunity to apply my knowledge and skills in a new environment, collaborating with a diverse team to ensure the efficient distribution of food to those in need. It’s fulfilling to know that my efforts contribute to a positive impact on people’s lives.

Have you had any challenges?

Certainly, there have been challenges, such as adapting to new events, knowing new people at young age and helping them to understand why is good to eat healthy food and how easy is make it.

What would you say to someone considering volunteering with Food etc?

I would encourage them to seize the opportunity to make a difference in the community while gaining valuable experience. Volunteering with Food etc provides a rewarding experience where you can apply your skills and contribute to a worthy cause.

What’s your go-to healthy meal – inspire us?

One of my favourite healthy meals is a quinoa salad with roasted vegetables. I love combining colourful roasted peppers, courgettes, cherry tomatoes, and red onion with cooked quinoa, fresh herbs like parsley and mint, and a squeeze of lemon juice. It’s nutritious, flavourful, and versatile, making it a satisfying option for any meal.

Jenny

Tell us about yourself

In my twenties, I managed a restaurant in the city of London, met my husband with 3 young children and went on to have another 3 of our own. I’ve always been passionate about bringing people together over a dinner table, it’s when I’m most fulfilled!

Bringing up a blended family has made this more important than ever and I still cherish these times.

Over the past two years I have volunteered for Saturday Outreach Service (SOS) as one of their main chefs where they serve up to 100 people every week. Some are homeless but many live in hotels or hostels and appreciate a home cooked meal.

In my spare time, I work at Center Parcs running children’s activities which keeps me young and fit.

 

Why did you decide to volunteer for Food etc.?

I joined Food etc because as soon as I realised what the ethos was I knew it ticked every box I’m passionate about – charity, community, cooking and children.

Preparation is the key to avoid challenges in our sessions, and trying not to be too disappointed when people don’t show up which sometimes happens.

 

What would you say to someone considering volunteering with Food Etc?

I would recommend anyone to Food etc as I feel very well supported and feel you can run the sessions with what works for course attendees which varies every time.

 

Gabi

Tell us about yourself

Hi, I’m Gabi.

I live in Bedford with my husband and 2 dogs and love being a Bedfordian! Having lived in Spain for a few years, ironically it was the warmth and sense of belonging to the local community here in Bedford that drew us back from a somewhat hedonistic lifestyle.

Why did you decide to volunteer for Food etc.?

I love eating! I am a qualified yoga teacher and sharing ideas for living a healthy and mindful life is very important to me.

Preparing healthy, nutritious and affordable meals using fresh and locally produced ingredients is something which truly gives me a lot of enjoyment. It’s frustrating that so many struggle to feed their families well, for all sorts of reasons – poverty, lack of opportunity, poor mental health, low self-confidence, or environmental – there are so many obstacles.  Food etc. strives to offer opportunities, education and empowerment by encouraging confidence in the kitchen with the guidance of an enthusiastic and empathetic volunteer.

What’s your favourite thing about Food etc?

Food etc. is such a great organisation to be involved with. All the volunteers are like minded and just want to help local families (and individuals) to get involved with nourishing their bodies in an affordable and enjoyable way. To be able to share my top tips and enthusiasm for preparing easy and delicious meals feels such a valuable use of my time and I’m happy to give it.

What have been your greatest challenges?

Not many of the venues we use to teach are state of the art professional, fully equipped kitchens. But …. not many of the volunteers or the families we help are fully trained chefs!

It’s actually very rewarding to use a challenging space with minimal equipment and STILL be able to knock out something tasty and fun to make. It’s about doing the most, with the least and sending families home with food and ideas for their mealtimes.

What would I say to a potential volunteer?

Whatever you can do, do it. Food etc. needs many kinds of support staff, so don’t worry if cooking is not your strong point (not yet, anyway). Think about the value of your time, given freely to those who need a little help along the way. You don’t need to be an expert, just open minded enough to muddle along and change some perceptions (and maybe lives) by sharing your kitchen knowledge. It’s really FUN!

What’s your healthy go to meal?

Soup! The ultimate comfort food. So easy, so versatile, so cheap. My sons’ favourite used to be Mr Noah’s soup – the vegetables went in two by two……!! Celery sticks, carrots, potatoes, garlic, peppers – any veg that needs using up really. No hard and fast rules. Add a handful of red lentils or can of beans to include some protein element, a tin of tomatoes, and as much or little spice and seasoning that you want. Blend very briefly (leaving some chunky bits) with a cheap and cheerful stick blender (best kitchen gadget ever!) and in 15 minutes you’ve created deliciousness that can also form the base of a tomato sauce for pasta. Always a winner.

Lynne

Tell us a little about yourself

I started my working life in the Women’s Royal Air Force in Air Traffic Control and ended it as a Tax Inspector in HMRC – not sure there is a connection between the two. Now in retirement I find myself busier than ever – walking, volunteering with East Anglian Air Ambulance as a public speaker, Pilates, gym sessions and searching out for the perfect coffee/tea and cake at NT properties.

Why did you decide to volunteer with Food etc?

I love food, talking about it to whoever will listen and trying out new recipes. I want to be able to pass on that enthusiasm to families, show them that cooking is enjoyable and fun and give them the confidence to cook healthily for themselves rather than resorting to takeaways.

What do you enjoy most about working with Food etc?

It has been great fun working with the children and their families who are very keen to learn.  The expressions on their faces when they eat and really enjoy something that they have cooked is priceless as is seeing the children have that time with a parent doing something together.

Have you had any challenges?

In the words of Douglas Adams in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – “Don’t Panic”. It’s not about perfection but having fun. An ability to be able to adapt quickly to working in kitchen spaces and with equipment that you are not familiar with has helped me. When I started, I did wonder how I would have time to do all the washing up but the children and parents are massively keen to help out.

What would you say to someone considering volunteering with Food etc?

It turns out that despite having no formal qualifications in cooking and teaching, the sessions have gone really well. It is very useful to have the recipes on the Food Etc website so at the beginning you don’t have to worry too much about a cooking plan. The other volunteers are amazing and incredibly helpful so why not give it a go.

What’s your go to healthy meal – inspire us?

My go to meal is the one that uses as many veg as possible roasted with cumin seeds. Plus those that only use one pan like Pasta with pesto, potatoes and green beans which also means less washing up!

Hazel

Tell us a little about yourself

I am a retired university librarian managing to keep myself busy and active in retirement. As well as volunteering with Food etc I am an Independent Custody Visitor (we visit all Custody Suites in Bedfordshire to check on the welfare of people detained in police custody) and a Trustee at the Rothsay Education Centre.  I also play tennis regularly, walk with the Rothsay Ramblers and do yoga.

Why did you decide to volunteer with Food etc?

I am passionate about good food and cooking. I’m always trying new recipes and reading cookery books and magazines. I wanted to share my enthusiasm with others. It’s especially rewarding going into schools and community centres and working with children and their parents.

What do you enjoy most about working with Food etc?

I enjoy the fact that we can make a difference. Getting children who are fussy about food to try new things. Helping parents to cook nutritious food from scratch. I love the delight on children’s faces when they taste what they have cooked.

Have you had any challenges?

Sometimes the kitchen spaces we work in are less than optimal. Small, or (even worse) temperamental ovens pose a challenge, as do children handling sharp knives and graters. But parents are supportive and understanding. We get the job done!

What would you say to someone considering volunteering with Food etc?

I would say come and give it a try. We are a very caring and friendly team and most of us have no

formal cookery training. I’m sure you won’t regret it.

What’s you go to healthy meal – inspire us

I eat very little meat (and no red meat) so a vegetarian option is my preference.

Something like harissa spice butter beans with peppers & feta cheese’ for supper, or grilled avocado with tomatoes, basil & mozzarella for Sunday brunch.

Julia

Tell us a little about yourself

I’m Julia, I live in Bedford and am passionate about helping and giving back. I run a catering business and wanted to be able to reach out and help others to learn how to cook basic recipes.

Why did you decide to volunteer with Food etc?

I had previously been volunteering in a care home but this came to an end and I love about teaching others how to cook so Food etc was a great fit for me.

What do you enjoy most about working with Food Etc?

I love Food etc! it’s great to meet people, help them to create food they might not have had the confidence to make. To see them learning new skills is absolutely amazing.

Have you had any challenges?

It can be challenging getting to know venues and where everything is, to be ready to start cooking.

What’s your go to healthy meal – inspire us?

I love a chicken Caesar salad, it’s health and tasty! And I must admit I am a dessert person at heart, my favourite is coffee and walnut cake, yum.

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