Kinship Carers Cooking Club
The Kinship Carers Cooking Club launched in January 2020, as a small South-east London community group. The idea was simple: meet once a week with kinship carers and their children, cook and eat a meal all together. The aim was to give the children an opportunity to meet other children being raised by connected people; the carers to access peer support; everyone to learn some healthy, budget-friendly recipes, and everyone to walk away with a full belly and some food for the week. Our initial group was an immediate hit with local kinship families, and we had fifteen people walk through the door on our first meeting!
The cooking club is an opportunity not only for children and carers to do a bonding activity together, but also for kinship families to receive groceries on a weekly basis without having to attend a food bank or approach children’s services for support, with no judgment and no questions asked. Moreover, our cooking club enables kinship families to learn to cook healthy food on a small budget, making them less reliant on future food donations and improving the whole family’s overall wellbeing. But it’s not just about the food- it’s making connection with each other while sitting together to share a meal; nurturing each other; an opportunity for cultural sharing and validation. Carers are not seen as passive subjects of a service that is being “done to” them; they are an active and integral part of the service as they contribute recipes, traditions, stories and their own cooking skills to the experience. The children who attend the club get to see other children who are not growing up with their parents and feel less alone and more “normal”. Their self-esteem increases as they learn new skills and can proudly show their accomplishments for everyone to enjoy.
We ran the group initially for nine weeks, until mid-March 2020, when the first lockdown was announced. Like many other organizations, we had to think fast about how to continue to support kinship families in this rapidly changing scenario. We partnered up with another local community organization and started delivering cooked food to approximately fifty local kinship families in our immediate local area once a week; we did this for ten weeks at the height of the first lockdown, after which time our families signalled that, with the easing of restrictions, many of them were able to return to work and visit shops again, so no longer needed a meal delivery service. Our families however indicated that they were desperate for positive activities to entertain their children, as schools continued to be closed and creative activities were thin on the ground; also money continued to be tight and many kinship families were still struggling with food poverty.
In January 2021, we were back in lockdown, so we decided to re-launch our cooking club in a different format- we would deliver fresh ingredients to our families, and run the cooking sessions on Zoom. In other words, if the families could not come to cooking club then we would take the cooking club to them. We were helped in this endeavour by the brilliant charity GoodGym, who offered their volunteers to help us deliver the ingredients and recipes to our families every week.
With Covid restrictions fully lifted, since January 2022 we have started offering regular in-person sessions again; however, we have kept the online sessions too, as they have enabled us to reach a wider number of kinship carers, including some out of London who simply buy the ingredients in advance and join the online sessions on the day. Our next step will be to set up more kinship carers cooking clubs across the country.