Originally written By Sallie Phillips for the South Wales Argus
The project is a collaboration between Sirhowy Community Centre and Sirhowy Hill Woodlands to help more people understand the importance of sustainability when it comes to food.
Known as ‘Charlie’s Fab Food on a Budget’ the project is headed up by caterer Charlie Allcock who has been in the business 20 years and wanted to take part in the project after her café closed in December 2022.
She said: “I wanted to really help the community with something that could be so beneficial in the long-term.
"I already have a lot of organic food available at home and have always been keen to encourage people to use these healthier alternatives.”
The classes show people how to make something out of nothing and how to use popular cupboard staples such as lentils and beans to bulk up meals and make them last longer.
Ms Allcock continued: “Unfortunately, a lot of the people here are already familiar with using food banks, so they were keen to learn how to make a lot out of a little.
"However, I think a lot of them had never really considered buying typical cheap cupboard staples.”
“People get really engaged with taking part and trying new things, which is really lovely to see, and the community is really coming together.
"One event we had over 250 people involved, and it was like a bushtucker trial!
“We try to keep it fun and easy for people to try out at home, using stuff from the food shares so they know it is readily available.
"It’s really encouraging when people try out new recipes with products they’ve never used before.
"It’s heartwarming to know you’re really having an impact.”
Ms Allcock believes that cooking is an “invaluable skill”, and that people are never too young to learn and get in the kitchen.
“We have participants from three years old to 80 and everyone always learns something new.
"I sometimes think people have underestimated the importance of learning how to cook and becoming comfortable in the kitchen, as it not only helps your health, but also your pockets.”
The classes take place on Tuesdays at the Sirhowy Community Centre in Tredegar.
Blaenau Gwent Food Partnership is a team effort, created in 2021, hosted by Tai Calon Housing Community Housing.
It is a member of Sustainable Food Places and is part of the Food Sense Wales Network.
They have been working on improving sustainable food in the area for months, including creating ‘veg libraries’ across the borough.
Sustainability Co-ordinator for Blaenau Gwent, Chris Nottingham said: “We are determined to bring organisations and individuals together and help them become more sustainable food growers and users.
"We are advocating for the change to a healthier planet and population.
“These classes are a massive help as they encourage the use of locally grown organic produce, which we get from the local allotments.
"This gives low-income families incredible access to healthy food and is a real success story.”
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