Healthy eating project adapted to continue during the pandemic

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Student volunteers with a passion for food and nutrition have adapted their project, which promotes healthy eating to disadvantaged adults in Chester, to enable it to continue during the pandemic.

Chester Healthy Eating Workshops (CHEW) is a University of Chester student-led volunteering project, supported by the University’s Volunteering team and working in collaboration with Chester Aid to the Homeless (CATH) and the Spider Project Number 71, Chester.

The project had provided interactive cooking workshops at the Harold Tomlins Day Centre in Chester to service users supported by CATH. CHEW has now also partnered with the Spider Project Number 71, Chester, which offers a calm, supportive and supportive social and creative space for people in crisis and emotional distress.

Student volunteer Jack Gwyther who films the videos.
Student volunteer Jack Gwyther who films the videos.

The Harold Tomlins Day Centre, run by CATH, aims to transform the life chances and opportunities of their homeless clients in the most effective way possible, through advice, guidance and other opportunities. According to CATH, when service-users are moved to supported or independent accommodation, they often have difficulty cooking for themselves in a healthy and budget-friendly way – which is where the idea for CHEW began.

As COVID-restrictions have prevented the sessions taking place physically, the CHEW team has developed a series of tutorial videos to make sure that its healthy eating messages are still promoted at a time when healthy living has never been more important. Each video demonstrates a nutritious two-course meal on a budget, with the videos and recipes shared with CATH for them to distribute to their service users and No. 71 with their members.

The Project Leaders, Kabale Oke, who is a second year BSc Human Nutrition student, and Alice Murrill, who is in her second year studying BSc Nutrition and Dietetics, select a recipe from a bank of meal ideas provided by student volunteers then demonstrate how to make it in a video filmed at the University’s food laboratory.

Alice Murrill and Kabale Oke
Alice Murrill and Kabale Oke

Kabale said: “I become involved with CHEW as I love all things Nutrition and helping in the community.

“What I enjoy most about doing it is the variety of tasks that are involved – from liaising with CATH and Spider Project Number 71, Chester and engaging with student volunteers and the Food Lab to completing a task.”

Alice said: “We pick the recipes from a bank that our volunteers have developed – we all play a part in contributing ideas of different foods that could work together and how to make it healthier, so it’s a very collaborative process.

“Being a massive “foodie”, I think the recipe development part is a lot of fun, but I also enjoy being able to encourage the volunteers as they’re all doing a great job. It is of course incredibly rewarding too to think we might be making a difference to people’s lives.”

Jo Morison, from the Volunteering and Mentoring team at the University, said: “The videos are a real team effort – the volunteers collaborate on the recipes, they are filmed in the food labs in the Department of Clinical Sciences and Nutrition on the Parkgate Road Campus by a volunteer who then edits the videos.

“I’m so proud of our students for adapting the project in this way to enable it to continue. I’d also like to thank Jan Kresnyak in the Department of Clinical Sciences and Nutrition for offering this space and supporting the filming taking place.”

Georgina Ludgate, Support Worker at CATH, said: “This is a great resource that we will be able to take around our houses in a COVID-secure manner and help our guys to get involved in learning new skills and gaining a further step to living independently.’’

Eleanor Hughes, Crisis Response Worker and Volunteer Coordinator at Spider Project Number 71, Chester, said: “We have been really pleased to work with the University’s CHEW project during the lockdown period. The CHEW online videos have proved to be an invaluable resource for people in our community, which due to the lockdown restrictions has been unable to access services like ours for face-to-face sessions. Many of our members experience social isolation and mental health difficulties and these cooking videos have offered an activity outlet, helping to provide structure to people’s day. The online resources are informative, professional and easy to follow, as well as promoting the message of healthy eating.

“The CHEW team is highly skilled, approachable and passionate about the importance of nutrition and the positive impact that this has on individual’s overall wellbeing.”

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