A Cracking Solution to Food Waste and Sustainability

It’s only a couple of months since I launched the Cast No Shadow blog with the aim of highlighting sustainable organisations, products and lifestyle choices in Manchester. I hoped to inspire others to get on board and make some changes themselves, however small.

What I didn’t anticipate was the impact it would also have on me personally. Talking to individuals who are working so hard to drive change has been a joy, and at times has made me feel genuinely hopeful for the future. That’s real progress from where I started, not to mention a gift in these troubled times.

There is a growing community out there fighting for a more just world, both for people and the environment. Sustainability heroes as it were.

And this weeks featured heroes are Cracking Good Food.

Cracking Good Food is a cookery school that promotes cooking from scratch using sustainable and seasonal ingredients. A social enterprise with a community network, they raise awareness of food waste and ways to be more sustainable, for example running sessions in local schools or leading local foraging expeditions.

Cracking Good Food’s Tracey Torley answers the essential questions:

What was the inspiration behind setting up the project?

Cracking Good Food was conceived back in 2009 by Adele Jordan for a local cooking network, teaching people to cook delicious seasonal healthy food from scratch and on a budget. Adele has a background in teaching and at the time had been working for a number of years at Unicorn, Chorlton’s local co-operative grocery. She was always really interested to hear the stories about what delicious meals people who worked there had cooked with the food that went in the ‘free box’ at Unicorn. This gave her the inspiration for Cracking Good Food.

Chorlton, 3 miles outside Manchester City Centre, has a range of independent shops catering for all tastes and price ranges. It also has a very mixed population, people from all walks of life, and from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds. Whilst some areas have some of the highest house prices in Manchester, there are also two housing estates run by Southway Housing, which are in the top 5% and top 10% of the most deprived areas in the UK respectively. Many residents in both estates face a range of challenges which often go hand in hand with deprivation — crime, drug use, high unemployment, poor diet and poorer than average health.

A research project was funded by Food Futures at Manchester City Council amongst residents of the housing estates to determine what the barriers were to healthy eating, and it was found that the main factors were:

• Money: people think that healthy food is expensive

• Taste: people think that healthy food tastes bland and unappealing

• Time: people don’t have time to cook

• Skills: people find cooking really hard, they don’t really know how to do it and when they’ve tried its turned out wrong

And it wasn’t just the people living on the estates who were eating badly. Plenty of young professionals and families were also living on takeaways and convenience foods, or eating a very narrow range of foods. There was a variety of reasons such as time constraints in families where both parents work, or lack of proper cooking skills.

Cracking Good Food’s plan was to address these barriers head on by teaching people that cooking healthy food can be cheap, delicious, easy and not very time consuming. Not only that, if we could get people into cooking good food for themselves we could get them into cooking for their family and friends, improving the social cohesion in their local areas, which in turn might ignite an interest in where their food comes from. They may even grow some of their own food too, an even healthier and far cheaper option.

The Cracking Good Food Team

What have been the biggest challenges to setting it up and to working towards a more sustainable Manchester?

Funding. The cuts have hit us hard as many of the organisations supporting people in need and who form our main target group have suffered badly and are no longer in a position to buy services in.

What are your top tips for living a more sustainable life?

Buy local, eat less meat & enjoy the bounty of seasonal foods grown and produced seasonally.

Cycle when you can, walk or use public transport.

And most importantly; enjoy the love of each other’s company and the nature surrounding the city and avoid the constant lure to consume.

The finds from a wild foraging expedition

Who else is doing inspirational work in improving sustainability?

We love the folk at Bridge 5 Mill in Ancoats, the building is an inspiration in how it’s been reclaimed sustainably.

Hulme Garden Centre grow all their food, herbs and plants organically so it’s naturally awash with insects & birds. It’s a richly colourful environment, just lovely and very inspiring.

How can people get involved with Cracking Good Food?

People first and foremost attend our Cookery Classes that we run across Manchester from four High Schools in Chorlton, Didsbury, Flixton & Prestwich. As a Social Enterprise, the revenue raised contributes towards our operational costs enabling us to continue with our community outreach. People can also get involved on a voluntary basis to help with the delivery of the cooking sessions, enabling those who can’t afford to attend, to learn whilst helping us!

For more info check out their website: www.crackinggoodfood.org

Artisan Bread Making is one of the wide range of cookery classes

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