The UK’s The Food Chain Fosters Food Engagement for PLWH Through Cooking

Anna Brewster, services and volunteer manager at The Food Chain, a London-based charity that provides short-term assistance to persons living with HIV (PLWH), discusses how education provided through the Eating Positively program connects the importance of food and proper nutrition to health outcomes.

Anna Brewster, services and volunteer manager at The Food Chain, a London-based charity that provides short-term assistance to persons living with HIV (PLWH), discusses how education provided through the Eating Positively program connects the importance of food and proper nutrition to health outcomes.

Transcript

Can you discuss how your Eating Positively program fosters community support?

Eating Positively is our cookery course; it’s 4 days over 4 weeks to try and make it as successful as possible for our community. Prepandemic, obviously, it was an in-person class where people would come into our kitchen. We have our own kitchen space in Kings Cross. They would come in and learn how to cook basically, starting from the real basics around chopping an onion or peeling a clove of garlic. Some people would come because they really don’t have much literacy in terms of cooking, but some people would come because they’re just really disengaged with food. They’ve fallen out of love with the process of cooking a meal, or perhaps they become demotivated because the food that they were used to cooking wasn’t satisfying them anymore or perhaps wasn’t making them feel the way that they wanted it to make them feel.

So, there was different reasons why people would come to Eating Positively, but the basic message of the classes is learning about how food or nutrition can affect your health, but also how cooking is for everybody, is fully accessible, and we want to make that as accessible as possible. So we would teach through a mixture of theory. One of our HIV specialist dietitians would take a lead on the theory aspect of the class, and the classes would be structured loosely structured around 4 main themes, all relating to HIV and common kind of comorbidities of HIV.

We would start with a basic class on an introduction to HIV and nutrition and why it’s important. We did a class on diabetes, a class on heart health, and a class on managing side effects and also eating on a budget, shopping on a budget. So those were the 4 main themes of the class, which would dictate the theory side of things that the dietitian would impart to the students. But it would also inform the recipes that we would cook, so half the class would be sitting and learning and more workshopping the ideas around nutrition and then the other half of the class is everybody has their stations.

The idea is that people would come out of that some equipped with some skills to be able to take that independence back into their home and be able to cook for themselves and understand what they’re cooking and kind of know some little tricks around how to make cooking an enjoyable or more simple and more accessible experience. But also that they would understand the practical links between the theory and the food, the theory in the practicals—so we’re not just talking about why ginger is good for digestion, we’re actually making a dish with ginger in it—so that somebody knows how to access that kind of thing when they’re at home outside of our classes.