Hampers help families cook together and learn about budget meals

A support scheme has hit on a successful recipe for providing families with extra food and ideas for preparing healthy meals together.

The Helping Hampers scheme in Ryedale was devised in response to the post-Christmas period when many families were expected to find themselves coping with the financial consequences of providing for the festive period.

But it goes far beyond simply providing a foodbank-type service, though helping to stock cupboards is the starting point.

Helping Hampers uses families’ need for additional food to introduce other elements. When the scheme started those offered the chance to take part were given folders in which to keep recipe cards from each subsequent parcel.

Those deliveries are also used as a way to remind families of information they might find helpful – such as the importance of online security.

The scheme is not designed as a long-term part of the assistance structure for families and care has been taken to ensure they do not come to rely on the hampers, which are designed to provide enough food for two days.

However, an important part of the scheme is the role the recipients play – offering feedback to help to ensure it works as effectively as possible and can be fine-tuned, with other providers already showing an interest in adopting the blueprint.

Helping Hampers is a collaboration between Scarborough and Ryedale Carers Resource, the County Council and the Community Smart not-for-profit company.

The first phase used funding from DEFRA. It is hoped other sources of support will be identified to help the scheme to continue and to grow.

Carers Resource business development manager Claire Robinson said: “Each time, with the hampers we send out supporting information. It is another way of getting different types of information out to families.”

The recipe cards are designed to both bring families together in the kitchen and to help to promote home cooking skills and healthy eating on a budget.

“The hampers have been really well-received, both the food and the information,” said Claire. “We are looking at different funding options to keep something like this going. It was always intended as a pilot project and there has been some really good interest in it.”

North Yorkshire’s Practice and Development officer for Early Help, Simone Wilkinson, said: “This has been a great partnership project, which has made a big difference to the families we are supporting. It is not just about providing food each week, it is the helpful suggestions and targeted information that has made a big difference, too.

“The feedback we have received from families has highlighted that they are using the recipes and now cooking together, which is great, especially in lockdown when we all need some suggestions on things we can do together.”

Amy Simpson, of Malton, is among those taking part in the scheme and she praised the impact the hampers have had.

“It is so easy in this lockdown to slip into depression, particularly with food. It is so nice to do something together and sit down to a meal which doesn’t come out of a tin,” she said.

“It has a lot more benefits than just the food, because it is about doing things together. The kids love it, it is really good fun and I would be happy to pay for it.”