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Groundbreaking cookery school is a huge success

A new cooking course designed to support people with a learning disability to lead a healthier lifestyle has been widely praised by the first group to complete it. A collaboration between Brandon and two other Bristol charities – Square Food Foundation and Milestones Trust – the first ‘Healthy Me’ course launched in May and ran for 12 weeks. Six people with a learning disability and their chosen companion attended weekly classes at Square Food Foundation’s teaching kitchen in Knowle West, where they learnt simple food preparation skills, how to cook a variety of dishes, and the core principles of healthy eating.

A key element of this innovative course is the inclusion of support workers and carers, who take part in every task with the person they’re supporting. This ensures that everyone involved in meal planning, shopping and cooking is equipped with the same understanding of a healthy diet and the relevant practical skills. Research shows why this initiative is so important: less than 10% of adults living in supported accommodation eat a balanced diet, while 50% of adults with a learning disability are obese and 60% suffer from constipation.

Educational and enjoyable

Claire Mitchell is a support worker at Brandon and completed the course alongside George. “I couldn’t believe how well designed it was," she says. "George really learnt a lot and I did as well – it brought us closer together as a team. It was amazing, and something he looked forward to. I noticed a big change in him when we came away, he was really happy and excited to get home and start doing things.”

“I like banana pancakes and the porridge with jam in it,” adds George, who's been using his new skills to cook with his parents when he visits them.

Anna Kilanczyk, from Milestones, supported Norman to take part in the course. “Norman started to have one day of the week dedicated to cooking dinner for the whole house (three people) with a member of staff’s supervision" she says. "We try to choose recipes from the course or find other healthy dishes. In my opinion, we all needed this training to think about healthier options, and to see how Norman likes to be involved in cooking and how much he’s able to do. It was a good lesson for all of us.” 

Changing lives for the better

The ‘Healthy Me’ course is free to attend, thanks to funding from NHS Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Integrated Care Board (BNSSG ICB). “We want to connect people to food and empower them to understand how their bodies work," explains Lesley Le-Pine, BNSSG’s Associate for Learning Disability Projects. "Learning to cook, socialising, being proud of new skills – all of this has a really positive impact on someone’s life. Seeing people with a learning disability and support staff as food champions is wonderful and already changing lives.”

Charlotte Fife, Head of Community Cookery at Square Food Foundation, adds: “The course was an absolute delight to teach. Seeing the group engage with each other, cook healthy, nourishing and delicious food, and then sit down and eat it together was simply wonderful. We hope to continue this work for as long as we can.”

Make a difference 

Want to play a part in empowering people to live healthy and happy lives? Head to our jobs section and apply to join us today!