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The Beginning of Edinburgh Food Social

Edinburgh Food Social was founded in 2015 to bridge a growing gap between young people, communities and the importance of local, seasonal food. With school projects, producers’ markets and community meals, there have been few stones left unturned over the years. With our trusty food truck we travelled around the city and beyond to showcase the amazing things that can be done with local food, helping people of all ages and backgrounds develop their cooking skills and create nutritionally balanced meals using local, seasonal food.

In 2019, we developed our Good Food Apprenticeship: an employability programme designed to give young people the skills and understanding to gain work in the hospitality sector. We were mid-way through our pilot with a young man called Joseph, who we’ll come back to, when the pandemic struck.

Responding to a Social Emergency

In response to the spread of COVID-19 and related social isolation, the team set up the Food for Good coalition and started making delicious and nutritious ready-to-reheat meals that were delivered to people’s doors, helping many vulnerable families through this difficult time. After a frantic 10 days, Food for Good was one of the first organisations to cook food in Edinburgh, culminating in over 75,000 meals being prepared and distributed around three pillars of Community, Dignity & Sustainability. From this, we built up a wealth of knowledge on what local communities needed, wanted to eat, and what was going on behind closed doors.

At this stage, we didn’t have our own premises, but due to pandemic closures, we were able to use the kitchens of restaurants, and catering companies. By the end of the summer 2020, Edinburgh Food Social moved into a new training kitchen in Craigmillar, where we committed ourselves to supporting the local community with food.

That September, we were able to start our Good Food Apprenticeship proper, welcoming four young people to our training kitchen and teaching them all about the wonderful produce that we have available here in Scotland; its economic and nutritional value as well as the skills and techniques needed to create delicious dishes. Remember Joseph? We continued to teach him and a number of other young people the cooking skills that we are so passionate about. By providing opportunities to get involved with our community food and catering, Joseph now has the skills to work for us, to earn a living and to support the local community.

Building Community Food Projects

Now rooted in Craigmillar, our food truck took up residence at The White House, where we offered regular community takeaways. During this period we build many strong relationships with the local community. We are proud to be able to continue to support fantastic organisations here in Craigmillar, including Castlebrae Community Campus, The Greenhouse Pantry, The Venchie Children’s Project, Niddrie Mission and many more.

Throughout 2021 we continued to ruin our Food Truck in Schools project with Castlebrae Community Campus, and by the summer of 2022 this had become a vital and valued part of the curriculum for local young people. That summer, we also offered a Good Food Youth Club at the Venchie, to ensure that local children were well fed during the summer holidays. This is now a regular project that we have run through summer 2023 and summer 2024, and now also runs in the Easter and October holidays.

After the success of the Food Truck in Schools projects, demand was growing for young people to have more opportunities to develop a wider range of skills in food and event planning. So, in 2023, we developed Helping Hands into Hospitality, a project aimed at young people who were considering working in hospitality after leaving high school.

Leading in Sustainable Catering

As a social enterprise, catering has always supported our community food work. In 2023, we launched an exciting development for our kitchen and the catering industry as a whole: the Even Greener Menu. This marks an innovation in wedding catering that pairs locally sourced, seasonal produce with a commitment to tackling food waste. This transformative new menu option allows our chefs to use local, available ingredients to create a delicious menu, giving the happy couple value for money and lowering the carbon footprint of their big day! The catering side of the business provides vital funds for the community aspect of our work as well as providing great training opportunities for chefs in training.

Transforming Craigmillar Food Culture

By 2024, our team had grown to six dedicated part-time staff, and we are now delighted to be able to offer many more community cookery classes and meals. In line with their desire to help everyone to learn how to create delicious meals from Scotland’s bountiful larder, we run a wide range of cookery classes – from paid-for private classes teaching people how to make the most delicious dinner party dishes to free classes in the local pantries and food banks. As well as classes, our ready-to-heat meals provide a lifeline to those in need, whilst our recipe bags are inspiring families to cook together at home.

We believe that food is not only essential to everyone’s daily lives but is an excellent way to bring people together. So as well as the ready-to-reheat meals that we provides to local food banks and pantries, we also host communal meals in community centres and other spaces. One of our favourite projects is when, on the final day of a course, a cookery class hosts a community meal. This not only provides a great resource for the community but teaches the participants the wider skills around event planning. It gives them a chance to put everything they learned into practice while having some fun and showing off their skills.

What’s Next for Edinburgh Food Social?

Looking to the future, we’re excited to continue educating as many people as we can on the benefits of local, fresh food! As well as continuing our intensive work around changing Craigmillar’s food culture, and we have already been booked to cater sustainably for some exciting weddings and events in summer 2024 and beyond.

While we have worked through major challenges in our community, our work has never been more important, with so many young people adrift as a result of opportunities and resources being decimated. Craigmillar continues to be one of many communities that are at risk of the ongoing implications of political and economic uncertainty.

The only challenge we now face is a lack of resources. We would love to be able to say yes to every opportunity to share our skills and knowledge, but with a small team with limited resources, this isn’t always possible. With the potential of more community collaborations the team at Edinburgh Food Social are so excited about the future – however, we can only do it with your support.

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