4Lunch – Feeding is caring with this exciting social enterprise
4Lunch is a multi-award-winning Greater Manchester social enterprise that has been cooking with communities since 2013. It is their mission to create social change within communities by unlocking the power of food through their innovative Cook Inspire Change workshops and programmes. The workshops are engaging, experimental and educational and pull in people from all walks of life in Manchester, including some of the most vulnerable groups.
We have blogged before on the Insequa website about the importance of food to personal well-being, and it’s good to take another perspective on why the stuff on your plate effects the stuff in your life so much. Between busy sessions in the kitchen, we caught up with Amy Win, 4Lunch Director, to ask her a few questions…
Insequa: I see from social media you’ve just been holding one of the 4Lunch pop-up cafes at Mental Health Charity St Lukes Trust. Tell me how it went.
Amy: Our pop-up café has been running at St Luke’s Church every first Thursday of the month since June 2017. The idea behind it was to provide top-class food in a welcoming environment to people with mental health needs and the local community. It’s a place for people to meet, feel less alone and connect. The menus are inspired by all sorts of international cuisines. We’ve done paella, curries, roasts, stir-fries, grills and BBQs. We often see familiar faces at each pop up – it’s become people’s monthly treat, and there are often leftovers to take home!
The pop-up café also provided a regular volunteering opportunity to James, who used the services of TLC St Luke’s on a regular basis. He said to me whilst washing up one time that it had been the best year of his life because of the opportunity. I sometimes forget what an important impact a relatively simple project like the pop-up café can have on people.
Insequa: Food is brilliant for bringing people together. Why do you think food is so good for tackling the social problem of loneliness and isolation?
Amy: Everybody has to eat and everybody gets hungry! Eating is one of the most fundamental things we do every day, so no matter who you are, learning how to cook will be beneficial to your life.
The process of cooking a meal can also be very therapeutic, and many conversations flow, even when cleaning up. People connect over their favourite meals, likes and dislikes, and over the process of cooking.
What I personally love about food is that it is so diverse. There are so many ingredients, traditional recipes and techniques to learn – I have really barely scratched the surface myself! So food is a great way to learn about other cultures and experience new flavours.
Insequa: Tell us about your work with Back on Track.
Amy: I have worked collaboratively with Back on Track to provide work experience opportunities to learners on their catering and hospitality course. They have wonderful tutors and a flourishing café and catering service called Swan Kitchens, so learners have the opportunity to get hands on experience making food for paying customers. 4Lunch enhanced this experience as we were a street food trader at Manchester University, Stockport Foodie Friday and Levenshulme Market for 4 years.
It was an incredible, challenging and thrilling experience serving street food outdoors with Back on Track trainees. The most memorable moment was working with a learner who was in the process of recovering from heroin addiction. He told me that the fact that I’d trusted him to handle the cash meant a lot to him. He said that his previous self would have taken the money for drugs.
I no longer do street food events as my catering work is a lot more reliable and brings in better money for the social enterprise. But I had some great experiences working with Back on Track on that project.
Insequa: We see a growing emphasis on Social Value in local authority commissioning strategies, something 4Lunch seems to have well covered. Do you have any words of advice for companies seeking to improve their Social Value?
Amy: Social value commitments need to come from a genuine place, with the wellbeing of people at the forefront. This might mean that you make a decision that actually lowers your profit margin. For the traditional for-profit business model, this doesn’t make sense. But there are many pressing social and environmental issues business leaders need to take a strong stance on. My advice is for companies to think about the issues they care most about and how they can play a part in instigating positive change.
For example, I have committed to providing free cookery workshops and free business mentoring for people in need, because I think this support should be available to the most vulnerable. I can afford to do this because I sell marketable products (catering and cookery classes) and do so at a price that enables me to pay the bills AND have a bit leftover to provide the free activities.
What I’ve learned is that it takes more headache, heartache, time and money to deliver social value! But it’s why I do what I do.
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