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If you have ever attended one of our classes at Edinburgh Food Social HQ, you might know that we’re a tenant of Create Business Properties, who provide a supportive and collaborative environment for local social enterprises. Create’s roots are deeply ingrained in the Craigmillar community, and they have welcomed us warmly since we began focussing our community food work on this pocket of Edinburgh. They recently profiled all of the different strands of work we do as an organisation – thank you, Create! Read on if you want to know a little bit more about our projects. 

Better Food Choices for our Communities

In the era of mass industrial farming, many households still aren’t aware of the importance and benefits of choosing local and seasonal foods over processed options that may have travelled a long way to get to your plates. Choosing local and seasonal food has a number of benefits, including supporting local economies, reducing food’s carbon footprint, and delivering fresher, more nutrient-rich produce.

Edinburgh Food Social was founded to educate future generations about the value of consuming locally sourced produce by bringing the advantages of doing so to communities and schools throughout Edinburgh. The multi-award-winning social enterprise launched back in 2015 with a food truck that travelled around the city and beyond to showcase the amazing things that can be done with local food, all year round. They aimed to help people of all ages and backgrounds develop their cooking skills and create nutritionally balanced meals using local, seasonal food.

Kirsty Haigh, the chef who runs Edinburgh Food Social, is passionate about the enterprise’s cause to make local food accessible to all. She says:
“We used the food truck as a key initiative, acting as a demonstration unit and catering van that can get right into the hearts of communities and schools that don’t always have the infrastructure. We worked with schools that didn’t have home economics departments, and community gardens without a kitchen.”

A Growing passion for local produce

Although Edinburgh Food Social (EFS) has expanded and changed over the years, their core values remain the same: collaborating with communities and schools to teach them about the advantages of eating fresh, locally produced food and to help them learn how to cook. However, now they do things a little differently.

The first big change took place during COVID when the team set up the Food for Good coalition and started making delicious & nutritious ready-to-reheat meals that were delivered to people’s doors, helping many vulnerable families through this difficult time. From this, EFS built up a wealth of knowledge on what their local communities needed, wanted to eat, and what was going on behind closed doors. At this stage, they didn’t have their own premises,but due to pandemic closures, they were able to use the kitchens of restaurants, and catering companies.

Post-Covid, Create Business Properties was honoured to welcome the EFS team to our community here at Craigmillar. The move made sense because Craigmillar was one of the communities they were already working with and they were keen to expand on all they had learned.

Today, the EFS team operates a number of services, namely:

Edinburgh Food Social Catering

EFS provides a premium catering service for everything from garden parties to office lunches to weddings. At the end of last year, they launched a new ‘Even Greener Wedding 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 the EFS 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 their work as well as providing great training opportunities for their chefs. Find out more and book EFS catering here.

Cookery classes

In line with their desire to help everyone to learn how to create delicious meals from Scotland’s bountiful larder, EFS also offers 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. They also cover a range of levels, with some classes being a few hours of essential skills while others are part of a longer project or training people to be chefs. Check out upcoming cookery classes.

Community meals

EFS believes we need to change the current food system. 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 EFS provides to local food banks and pantries, they also host communal meals in community centres and other spaces.

Kirsty says, “One of our favourite projects is where, 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 not only put everything they learned into practice but also to have some fun and show off their skills.”

When asked what makes EFS stand out from other catering and cooking organisations, Kirsty answered:
“The main difference between us and other similar organisations is that we’re entirely run by chefs. Our meals are produced by chefs and our classes are taught by chefs. This allows us to guarantee excellent quality every time, be very efficient in the kitchen and teach people to a much higher level.”

A small team with a big vision

Looking at all of this, you might be surprised to learn that the EFS team consists of just 6 part-time (but dedicated) workers and a volunteer. The fact that they achieve so much is a testament to the hard work of the team as well as their complete dedication to helping everyone develop a better relationship with food.

Kirsty explains, “At EFS we’re trying to ensure that not only everyone has access to good food but, crucially, knows what to do with it. At the moment, our community work is focused on trying to change the food culture in Craigmillar. We’re trying to upskill the whole area while simultaneously introducing people to new flavours, foods and techniques.”

And at a time when schools and families are struggling with resourcing issues and people battle with the pressures of life, cooking isn’t always at the top of the agenda- especially when ultra-processed fast food is so easily available. This is why EFS believes it’s more important than ever to teach people about local, seasonal and nutritious food. They aim to get people excited about food and cooking – to fill people with wonder and to get them to taste things that they’ve never tried before.

Looking to the future for EFS and they’re excited to continue educating as many people as they can on the benefits of local, fresh food! As well as continuing their intensive work around changing Craigmillar’s food culture, the team is planning many more longer cookery courses with the local school and Good Food Youth Clubs. And they have already been booked to cater sustainably for some exciting weddings which they have had great fun designing menus for.

The only challenge they face as a team is the lack of resources. They would love to be able to say yes to every opportunity to share their skills and knowledge, but with a small team with limited resources, this isn’t always possible. Hopefully, with the future growth and success of the more commercial areas of their business, their funds and resources will grow. Another great reason to choose EFS for catering or providing cooking classes!

The Create team is incredibly proud to have such an impactful social enterprise as part of our business community at Craigmillar, and we are supporting Kirsty and the whole EFS team to flourish and grow. And they love being here too!

Kirsty says: “We love the relationship we have with all of our neighbours here. CBR, the builders, are particularly great at helping us out when we’re in a pinch (like when the boiler flooded when we were teaching a group of young people!) At various times, we’ve been able to use lots of the different businesses and it’s great just to be able to walk across and talk to them. “