Helen

Tell us about yourself

Hi, my name is Helen Wisson. I have lived and worked in the local area for all of my life. I left school at 16 and started working in a bank where my career progressed, and found myself still working there 40 years later.

I love going to the gym to try and stave off the middle aged spread.  I have two grown up daughters who both live away from home so I enjoy trips to see them.  Since retiring I am trying to see more of the UK and visit new places closer to home as well as abroad.

What attracted you to volunteer with Food etc?

After taking early retirement at the end of February 2020 – great timing!  I knew I wanted to spend some of my time volunteering.  During the pandemic I worked as a volunteer in the vaccination centres which I enjoyed.

I had a think about the type of things I liked, and was relatively good at, and came to the conclusion that I liked food and cooking, and being amongst children – Food etc was the perfect fit

I met with Julie to find out more, shadowed her on a couple of sessions in schools to get a clear idea of what would be involved, and was hooked.

What’s your favourite thing about working with Food etc?

It may sound like a cliché, but seeing the children arrive at the session, enthusiastic about what we are making.  Giving them the space to try new foods and watching their confidence grow over the sessions.  I think the adults also get a lot from the sessions, just having that one-to-one time with their child, and working together without other distractions from home

I love hearing the feedback, I always ask for marks out of ten for the food that they have made at the previous session.

What have you found to be your biggest challenge about working with Food Etc?

You definitely need to be able to think on your feet and be able to adapt a recipe on the hoof.  Working in different schools which all have different set ups in terms of facilities and equipment.

Trying to work out why none of the hobs are working on any of the ovens, only to find they are induction hobs, and we are using non induction friendly frying pans was a fun challenge!

What would you say to someone thinking about volunteering?

Just jump in and give it a go.  I was hesitant about running sessions by myself to start with, but because we include the parents/guardians in the sessions, it makes it far less daunting.  Everyone is there to enjoy themselves, learn something new and have fun so it’s a lovely positive atmosphere to be in.

What’s your healthy go to meal?

Veggie lasagne. I also love a roast with loads of veg.

Annabel

Tell us about yourself

My name is Annabel and I have lived in Bedford for over 30 years and raised my family here.

I am now retired and whilst pursuing the activities that I had always wanted to do, I was also looking to give some of my time as a volunteer and became a director of Food etc at its inception.

Why did you decide to volunteer with us?

I have known Julie for many years and she had always talked about her wish to set up an organisation to teach people that healthy, nutritious food could be affordable and to try to help get families back to cooking and eating together. When she decided to set up Food etc, I wanted to help her pursue her vision.

What do you enjoy most about working with Food Etc?

It has been interesting to be involved in carrying out research and being involved in setting up the company and its day-to-day running, and I have really enjoyed stepping in at the last minute to help with the courses and talking to the participants.

Have you had any challenges since you’ve been volunteering with us?

Raising funds has been – and continues to be – a challenge! However, we have always found a way to combat challenges by using the breadth of experience and connections we have within the team and advice and guidance that has been provided by mentors.

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

Look at the information that is provided on the website to discover in detail what we’re all about and then, if you feel you would like to be a part of our team, come and join us!

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

A last minute Mediterranean style dish with any veggies, fish, chicken, pasta or rice that I happen to have in the house!

Maggie

Tell us about yourself

My name is Maggie Bennett. I trained as a Home Economist, many moons ago, and most of my career has been in the food industry, food publishing and food education. I grew up in London, then moved out to the country in the 1980s. Now retired, I enjoy many volunteering activities, including running a Lunch Club for the elderly and helping to run the bookshop at Emmaus in Carlton. My partner and I enjoy visiting National Trust properties, travel and seeking out good food eateries. I have two grown-up children, who are also keen cooks.

What attracted you to volunteer with Food etc?

I feel passionately about the importance of healthy eating in the prevention of western diseases and obesity, and also enjoyment of meals as a social occasion, especially for connecting families and developing healthy eating habits. I lament the poor representation of cookery lessons in schools and strongly feel that all children should learn to cook as an essential life skill

What’s your favourite thing about working with Food etc?

Children are enthusiastic about cooking when they are given the opportunity. All our families have thoroughly enjoyed the sessions and it’s very rewarding to see them tucking into something they haven’t made or tasted before and saying that the homemade is so much nicer than a ready meal! It’s also been interesting for us to meet families from different countries and cultures and to hear about their cuisine

What have you found to be your biggest challenge about working with Food Etc?

Nothing really, although sometimes encouraging children to try more vegetables or to be more adventurous with flavourings is work in progress! Occasionally a hyperactive child needs greater attention but either the parent or a classroom assistant helps out so as not to disrupt the rest of the group.

What would you say to someone thinking about volunteering?

Definitely go for it! We always enjoy our sessions, the feedback is positive and it’s very rewarding to see the children’s enthusiasm and enjoyment.

What’s your healthy go to meal?

One can always make a stir-fry, a soup or an omelette with whatever’s in the fridge. I like to make a veg curry using canned tomatoes and red split lentils from the store cupboard. I love Middle Eastern flavours so dishes like lamb with apricots are a go-to favourite.

Paula

Tell us about yourself

Hello, my name is Paula, I live in Bedford and have a passion for food – both cooking and eating!  When I’m not working as an editor on a magazine, I keep fit on my yoga mat and on walks with my 12 year old, but still very lively, Bichon Frise. I’ve recently taken up, and fallen in love with pottery throwing.  It’s great fun but SO much harder than it looks on Channel 4’s Great Pottery Throw Down. I don’t think I’ll be getting the call to appear on the show anytime soon!

 

Why did you decide to volunteer with Food etc?

Although I always cook from scratch, my highest food qualification is ‘O’ level nutrition (that reveals my age) and with no previous experience of working in a classroom, I was hesitant to apply,  However, being keen that everyone should have access to healthy affordable food, I gave it a go and found Food Etc to be the perfect fit for me.

 

What’s your favourite thing about Food etc?

Hearing a child say they prefer the Food Etc recipe to a takeaway or ready meal makes me very happy. It has also been a great pleasure to meet the families as well as the other volunteers.

 

Have you had any challenges since you’ve been volunteering with us?

I have been lucky to work in a school with a well-equipped kitchen; we did however have an embarrassing problem working out how to switch on the induction hobs. Thankfully the school caretaker came to the rescue and we were then ‘cooking on gas’….or rather electricity.

 

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

Definitely give it a try.  All the resources are supplied and the initial online training is relatively pain free.  You get back from volunteering as much as you give, if not more.

 

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

Always mindful not to waste food, I try to be creative with what’s in my fridge, so although no two meals are the same, stir fries, soups and roasted vegetables feature regularly on my menu. My latest discovery is a super easy and healthy roasted whole cauliflower recipe which can be served as a veggie alternative to a Sunday roast.  I use Jamie Oliver’s, but there are plenty to choose from online.

 

 

Julie

Tell us about yourself

My name is Julie Clay and I am the founder of Food etc. I have lived in Bedford for over 25 years and raised our two now grown up children here. Please connect on Linkedin to find out more about me.

What attracted you to setting up Food etc?

I’ve always been interested in cooking and food and although I had no qualifications in teaching or food I wanted to do something more worthwhile alongside my day job as a communications consultant.

What’s your favourite thing about Food etc?

As a new organisation we are constantly learning and I love that. We’re always meeting new people and discovering how what we do benefits all sorts of people in different ways. When we were initially thinking about delivering cookery workshops we thought it was simply about helping people to eat better. But we’ve realised it’s much more than that. It brings people together who wouldn’t usually spend quality time together, it brings mental and physical health benefits and it empowers people to take more control over aspects of their lives to name just a few, but a powerful few.

What have been your greatest challenges?

Initially choosing April 2020 as a launch date which turned out to be the beginning of Covid and all that went with it. Since then it’s really been about time and having lots of ideas and opportunities but not enough hours in the day so having to choose between things when we’d like to do nearly all of them.

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

Please give it a go! Most of our volunteers are involved in delivering cookery workshops which requires around 3 hours a week but we have other people helping with admin and marketing for example, so we would almost definitely need you whatever your skills and experience.

Jennie

Tell us about yourself

My name is Jennie Moore, I live in Bedford and I’m a mum to 14 year old triplets (yes it is hard) but wonderful too!  My background is in HR, Operations, Training & Recruitment but I am currently taking some time out of the corporate world to renovate a lovely old house.  It is not without it’s challenges but I’m loving learning something new every day. Please connect on Linkedin to find out more about me.

Why did you decide to volunteer for Food Etc.

I’ve always had a passion for food and cooking from scratch is something my family and I love to do.  I also enjoy fitness and so healthy eating goes hand in hand with that, especially with 3 very active, sporty children who always seem to be hungry! When I came across Food Etc it seemed a great way to share my own passion and inspire others.  I’m always crazy busy, but I really wanted to give a few hours a week to something that could really make a difference.  This seemed the perfect opportunity.

What’s your favourite thing about Food etc?

I love watching the change in the children as we progress through the course. The confidence they gain not just in their cookery skills but also talking to each other, reading recipes, trying things at home is magical.  If that’s just in 6 weeks, imagine the long term effect this is going to have on them.

What have been your greatest challenges?

The resources we have available in some of the schools are very limited so you need to be creative with how you approach things. Having one hob between 10 attendees in one school means there is a lot of turn taking and one day even the oven didn’t work!  It needed some quick thinking to alter the recipe so we could still make something together – but we did it!

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

Go for it!  It’s not only rewarding but also incredibly fun.  You can be creative, really think outside the box if that’s what you like to do and put your own spin on things.  Teaching these basic skills actually has the power to change lives and it’s not very often you get the chance to do that.

What’s your healthy go to meal?

Mine is a stir fry.  I love how many different veg you can squeeze in no matter what you have in the fridge and it always tastes great (lots of garlic is the key I think).  My kids would say Hidden Veg pasta sauce (carrots, courgette, onions, celery, garlic, herbs & peppers blended with tomatoes). It takes minutes and I always have some in the fridge ready for those ‘starving’ teens!

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