Square Food Foundation: recipe for success
Off the Streets, Into the Kitchen is our ambitious new community partnership with local charities Square Food Foundation and St. Mungo’s Recovery College. Here we meet Square Food Operations Manager, Eloise Price, and hear how the transformative work the social enterprise does in the local community led her away from a corporate career, and how this campaign will connect a new group of people with their services.
We’re only a tiny team, and so my job consists of anything and everything! I look after our small army of volunteers, meet customers and students, plan menus, arrange our sell-out public events, and even muck in on the cooking at lunchtime when Barny [Haughton – Square Food’s founder] isn’t about. I try to keep Square Food shipshape, a job which requires gallons of tea!
I actually started life at Square Food as volunteer. Once a month I would assist in the kitchen, helping to teach cookery skills to young people with Down’s syndrome. I remember being pretty nervous before my first session, but the buzz of working with that group soon became addictive. When a permanent role at Square Food came up after about a year, I grabbed it with both hands and left my corporate career behind me!
I already have so many memorable moments from my time at Square Food. A recent highlight has been working with a local school for children with additional needs, taking them through Jamie Oliver’s BTEC in Home Cooking Skills. It’s been such a joy to see them grow in confidence, improve their cooking skills and increase their knowledge of good food. The highlight was at the end of the year when every student cooked a meal from scratch, without help, which they served to their families at a big feast.
Bake until golden
Square Food Foundation began operating around 20 years ago as the Quartier Vert Cookery School, teaching groups of local school children. It then made a move to the cookery school at Bordeaux Quay restaurant on Bristol’s harbourside, before finally settling down as the Square Food Foundation at the Park in Knowle West in 2011. Since then we’ve registered as a Community Interest Company (CIC) and charity to aid expansion of our work with schools, community groups and charitable organisations, and to help us access more funding streams.
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It’s a constant challenge to make food education accessible to as many people as possible, but the need for services such as ours is more evident than ever. Learning to cook isn’t just about healthy
eating and knife skills. It’s a platform to develop confidence. At the start of a course, it’s perfectly normal for someone who’s vulnerable or disadvantaged in whatever way to be almost silent, unable to meet your eye and unwilling to engage. By the end they’re a different person, supporting other learners, engaging with both the class and life outside and displaying real pride in what they cook.
This is exactly what we’re aiming for in this new project with Better Food, but this time reaching people who have been affected by homelessness. It’s exciting to have an opportunity to reach an
audience we’ve never worked with before and St. Mungo’s is the perfect partner to help us do this. We want to help their clients gain the confidence and skills they need to start volunteering or working in a kitchen, or even running one themselves. St Mungo’s New Street Centre has a great kitchen space, and I’d love to see it up and running with service users employed both in the kitchen and front of house.
Much of our community work is funded by the income from our public events. We’re in the middle of a series of pop-up cookery demonstrations at Spike Island, each followed by a 3-course dinner. So far, we have covered pasta, vegan food and risotto, and the next pop-up will be taking place on the 22nd September with a focus on the flavours of the Middle East. We can’t wait!