A scheme that encourages people to experiment with cooking is also providing a helping hand for those who may be suffering from social isolation.
The Teatime Tuesday project, which began at the start of December, sees people provided with simple ingredients to turn even the most amateur chef into a successful cook.
Amanda Turner and Gemma Heath, both from Hartshill, set it up as part of their organisation Collective Skills Project. They received an initial grant of £1,000 from the Community Foundation for Staffordshire.
Now they want to continue the project for as long as possible to bring their local community closer together and educate people on healthy cooking.
So far, the meals have included lobby, spaghetti bolognese, cottage pie, chilli con carne and a red lentil dahl.
Thirty-five-year-old Amanda said: “Our aim is to combat loneliness and social isolation, and we want people to get to know their neighbours.
“We decided that we wanted to set something up that would allow people to develop skills and learn how to cook. We wanted to give people a menu and pre-portioned ingredients to enable them to try something they might never had had before – while still keeping it really simple.”
Each food bag produces enough pre-portioned ingredients to create four portions of the same dish – which are all vegetarian.
Alongside the ingredients is a recipe card, with a list of any allergens and other information, as well as a feedback form for participants to fill in and bring back the following week.
“We’ve done a few weeks of the project so far and our feedback has been really positive,” added Amanda.
“We did a red lentil dahl a couple of weeks ago and people told us that they had never cooked with – or even tried – lentils before, but they really enjoyed it. The meal’s just really simple, and healthy.
“We hope it takes the stress of people for at least one meal a week – or more if they’re on their own, because each bag makes four portions.
“If people are unable to collect from us, we do offer a delivery service too. They just need to contact us.”
Local businesses have also backed Teatime Tuesday, which has allowed the project to reach as many people as possible.
“We’ve had local businesses on board with the project as well which has been great,” said 34-year-old Gemma.
“Cris Cohen, from Feasted, provided the recipes and Sanctuary Ale House in Hartshill have been great in letting us use their space.
“We want to build on more projects with the local community and reach as many people as possible. The Hartshill and Harpfields Residents’ Association have put the details on their physical newsletter, which reaches about 4,000 local people, many of them older, who might not have access to social media.”
Amanda added: “There has been a variety of people coming along to Teatime Tuesday. We are open to anyone, from people impacted by furlough or families who may be struggling. The support is out there and we are here if they need some extra help.
“Anything left over is going to be donated to Affordable Foods, in Blurton, so nothing goes to waste.
“We can’t wait to get more feedback from people and hear their thoughts about the meals. We want to get people talking and sharing their experience with the meals and what they liked and what they didn’t like so much.
“It’s just a small gesture from us, but we hope it helps at least some people.”
You can keep up with the Collective Skills Project and Teatime Tuesday on Facebook.