Hampers encourage families to cook together

This story was published 18 March 2021

A support scheme for families in Ryedale has hit on a successful recipe for providing families with extra food, ideas for preparing healthy meals together and involving them in feedback to help similar projects develop in the future.

Helping Hampers

The Helping Hampers scheme was devised as a 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 store cupboards is the starting point.

Helping Hampers uses families’ need for additional food to introduce other elements and when the scheme started, those offered the chance to take part were issued with folders to keep recipe cards issued with each subsequent parcel.

Those deliveries are also used as a way to put out reminders on information families may find helpful – such as the importance of online security – in a move which could provide important added benefits while visits are already being made to drop off the hampers.

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.

While deliveries started weekly, they have now been reduced to fortnightly to ensure families do not come to rely on them.

However, an important part of the scheme is the role the recipients play – offering feedback on the success of the hampers scheme to help ensure it works as effectively as possible and can hopefully be fine-tuned for future use, 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 of the project used funding from DEFRA and it is hoped other sources of support will be identified to help the scheme to continue and potentially to grow.

Carers Resource business development manager Claire Robinson said the partnership had allowed for careful selection of families to be offered the opportunity to take part.

“We wanted to be able to say ‘what an advantage’,” she 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 information is presented as “suggestions” rather than instructions and families are asked for their input into how the scheme is operating – a move which has practical advantages but also helps to make those involved feel more engaged.

The recipe cards are designed to both bring families together in the kitchen and to help promote home cooking skills and the ability to eat healthily 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.”

Although the hampers are designed around families of four, where it is known households are larger, extra staple ingredients are included to ensure there is enough cooked food to go around.

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.”

North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Stronger Communities, Cllr David Chance, said: “Supporting families and community initiatives is always at the forefront of our work and the coronavirus pandemic has put that into even sharper focus.

“This initiative has proved popular with those taking part because it has provided a way for families to spend constructive time together, rather than just supplying additional food.”