Toolkit: hot meal provision for groups

1. Introduction

Due to the increased cost of living, local communities want to help residents access food. They may achieve this by supporting food banks and community fridges or providing hot meals.

We've created this toolkit to help you set up your own community-based hot meal scheme and expand the provision to reach more residents.

The guidance draws from a range of sources including ‘Cooking for your community’ (developed by the Active Wellbeing Society).

Our toolkit covers:

  • some of the steps you should consider taking when setting up your scheme
  • some examples of local community meal schemes

Local hot meal providers and schemes

Hot meal providers and schemes in Buckinghamshire include:

  • community cafes
  • pubs
  • supper clubs
  • the Big Community Takeaway
  • school breakfast and lunch clubs

These providers already deliver hot meal support across the county. They use appropriate facilities and follow food health and safety policies and guidelines.

Use the Bucks Online Directory to search for existing local providers and schemes.

You can also email our Food Support Coordinator at [email protected]

Cookery projects

Cookery projects enable residents to cook healthy, low-cost meals.

By encouraging residents to help themselves, the cookery projects bring about less reliance on food banks and other local food support providers.

There are already some great cookery projects in operation across the county including:

Khepera and Feedback – Slo' Plates Project

Statistics show that following the pandemic a high percentage of Buckinghamshire's population were experiencing food poverty, with fuel poverty issues also pending.

The Slo' Plates Project supported residents by reducing household food and fuel costs in a friendly and positive way.

Feedback Global is one of the leading organisations in the project. They'd run a similar project in Northern England and wanted to replicate this in Buckinghamshire, so they set up a partnership with local community company Khepera CIC to deliver community-based cooking workshops.

The project has helped residents understand how to use slow cookers and alternative fuel-reducing 'gadgets' including the Wonderbag and Wonderbox (Haybox). Slo’ Plates also gave local food support organisations a set of Wonderbags and boxes to loan out to those in immediate need.

Slo' Plates was funded by the council's Helping Hand Team’s household grant. This project was successfully delivered from May 20220 to July 2022.

Various food items spread out on a wooden table

The pantry essential pack contained 25 food items

A slow cooker, pantry essentials and recipe cards spread out on a wooden table

The entire Slo Plates pack: slow cooker, pantry essentials and recipe cards (each household received 1 pack)

One Can Trust – Cookery Programme

One Can Trust Food Bank has successfully delivered several cookery programmes to give families and individuals the confidence to cook healthy, easy and budget-friendly meals at home.

The courses ran weekly at several schools, where a cooking tutor taught parents and carers how to prepare healthy hot meals to share with their family for dinner. For the final hour of the course children were given the chance to prepare something fun, such as cakes and biscuits. This encourages parents and their children to cook and eat together.

In partnership with clients from Buckinghamshire Council and Wycombe Mind, the first 4-week adult-only course ran from a local community centre called The Hive. Sessions were 2 hours long and attendees learned basic cookery skills including how to use a knife correctly and how to safely cook rice. They also learned how to prepare a healthy hot meal from scratch.

Two people with masks on cooking food using pans in a kitchen

Cookery programme participants

Grow It Cook It Eat It

Grow It Cook It Eat It is a community food growing and cooking project that brings communities together.

The project has 2 main elements:

  1. Providing spaces to use for community growing, bringing together communities who may experience financial hardship or have challenges accessing fresh fruit and vegetables
  2. Helping communities improve their cooking skills and knowledge

There are currently 4 community growing sites across Aylesbury, High Wycombe and Chesham. They provide a free space for the local community to grow and harvest their own produce. You don't need experience to attend the growing sites because they're managed by either an Expert Gardener or a Community Champion Grower, who teach and support residents in successfully growing their own food.

The project has trained up volunteer cooking tutors. who deliver free cooking sessions to groups of people within the community. The aim of the cooking sessions is to teach residents basic cooking skills and recipes for quick, low-cost and nutritious meals over a 5-session course. The tutors set up and deliver the cooking sessions across Buckinghamshire using their existing and new links in the community.

A community growing site with vegetable patches, wooden frames and bark flooring

A community growing site

A group of community food growers holding their certificates and gardening tools

Community food growers