From Foodbank to food skills

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Food for Change Pancake day fundraiser at NCC Newquay Wesley Church

A local man has taken himself out of years of unemployment with support from a new programme which uses food skills to build confidence and get people closer to work.

Richard Hale, 50 from Truro, was left with low confidence and increasingly reliant on Foodbanks following a serious accident at work as a riding instructor. After years of interview knockbacks he found out about Food for Change, a local programme providing training and experiences to inspire people through food.

“My contact at the Truro Foodbank told me about the Food for Change programme which ran a free six-week training course called FoodWorks and taught things like recipes and safety in the kitchen. There was a part of me that was wary about what would be involved but I told myself I didn’t have anything to lose so it was worth a try.”

Cornwall Food Foundation is the charity behind Food for Change, best known for Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall and its apprentice programme. Working in collaboration with partners in Newquay, Truro, Camborne, Redruth and St Austell, Food for Change is part-funded by the European Social Fund and offers food training, volunteering and social activities to inspire, empower and support people with the aim of helping them get out of unemployment through learning to grow, cook and trade with food.

Community food manager at the charity, Rachael Anderson, manages the food team which delivers the FoodWorks courses and engagement activities across Cornwall. She said: “Food is an incredibly powerful tool for unlocking confidence and potential, and it can bring people together in an organic way. Our courses go at the pace of the slowest person in the room and so it really helps to build peoples self-esteem as they learn to create and then enjoy and share what they have made.

“It’s often the friends, teamwork and the environment as much as the course itself that helps people to feel more confident.”

Joining the army out of school, Hale spent five years in service with the Queen’s Guard before becoming a riding instructor for people with disabilities. He spent more than a decade in this role before a near fatal accident in the stable left him injured and unable to continue working with horses.

He says: “It was really hard to find a job different to what I had been doing for so many years. I would offer to do absolutely anything to learn, but I was constantly asked what experience I had. It became really disheartening. After a while without a job, opportunities felt less and less in my grasp.”

Hale surprised himself with his natural aptitude and interest in cooking and not only finished the FoodWorks course but went on to do Level 2 Food Safety Certificate and barista training. Since completing the training, he has thrived in a volunteer placement at Café Chaos, one of the Food for Change partners in Truro where his recipe for Lentil Soup made it onto the specials board.

“I’m 50 now but it feels like just the start for me. I’m enjoying my work at the Chaos Café and looking to apply for other jobs.”

“If I won the lottery tomorrow I’d love to open my own cafe and employ all the people who go on the Food for Change programme. Since I don’t actually play the lottery, I’ll stick with what I’m doing for now.”