Prior to the coronavirus, a shortage of skilled chefs was a crisis that many people involved in the food and drink sector were engaged with. Many skilled workers had already left the UK ahead of Brexit. An unsustainable career progression within kitchens meaning that young inexperienced chefs were running businesses before they were capable of doing so and the food industry was seen as somewhere that people were overworked and underpaid.
Although these issues may not have been solved, they have certainly been superseded by coronavirus, which will undoubtedly change the face of hospitality for many years to come. Now, the likelihood is that there will be a shortage of jobs in an industry that will be affected by social distancing regulations, increased public awareness of the risks associated with the intimacy of socialising and the fact that many food and drink businesses will not survive the challenges of the coming weeks, months and years.
However, it has never been more important to educate young people with the skills and knowledge that we share on the Good Food Apprenticeship.
Many of the young people that we work with are growing up in a climate of huge uncertainty, with concerns around the political and environmental landscapes. The jobs market is fast-changing, school leaving dates come around all too quickly and the coronavirus crisis has already had a huge impact on the mental wellbeing of young people with very few adults or young people able to predict what might face us in either the short, medium or long term future. We are aware of many programmes that we are involved with potentially not running as well as a loss of many community resources where young people felt safe.
At a time where everything is in question, Edinburgh Food Social aims to offer its students security, stability and the promise of an education that will include skills that are not only useful for life but can be used across the world in thousands of unique career settings.
During coronavirus, the food landscape has also changed in terms of production and sourcing. Farm shops that once struggled now enjoy lengthy waiting lists and local businesses deliver local food to local people. Naturally this is a change that many people were keen to see and it has the potential to be one positive of this crisis.
The Good Food Apprenticeship encourages students to slow down and to consider where food comes from, how it is made and how to prepare ingredients with care and respect. Things that we once took for granted (milk, eggs, flour) are explored in detail with stories shared, production methods explored and recipes followed. This connection has always been vital to us and now, faced with a public who are acutely aware of the fragility of the food system after COVID as well as local food systems showing new strength, there has never been a better time to share our passion with our future food professionals.
With our commitment to young people and communities as well as local, seasonal food, Edinburgh Food Social worked quickly to establish Food for Good, an emergency COVID food response which, at the time of writing, has prepared over 50,000 nutritious meals for Edinburgh’s residents during lockdown. The creation and development of this organisation has not only exposed the fragility of our food systems but has also demonstrated the incredible power of food as a tool to build community resilience and encourage positive social change.
It’s goes without saying that we are extremely excited about the potential of teaching our young people about the power of food so that their dreams are not necessarily of restaurants with white tablecloths and Michelin stars but are of how they can use food for good.
We are incredibly excited about the future of local, sustainable food and hope that you will be able to support us in sharing this passion and vision with Edinburgh’s young people, who we think deserve the best that we can give them.