Bristol's Square Food Foundation is taking our approach to cooking back to basics to make the way we eat healthier and more sustainable
Square Food Foundation teaches people of all ages, abilities and walks of life to cook good, healthy food from scratch.
Founded by award-winning chef and teacher, Barny Haughton, Square Food Foundation is a social enterprise which uses every penny of profit from its cookery classes for adults and children, corporate events and teambuilding workshops to support work with schools, community groups and charitable organisations.
The Foundation supports different organisations to reconnect with food, including children, the elderly and the disabled, and Barny reminds us that cooking is both a skill and joy and we need to remove the idea that it is a chore.
“I do the same cookery with all groups of people, even children. It doesn’t matter about the level, the techniques are the same. For many people it’s about giving them a fundamental understanding of and the skills to use and cook food – something which is getting further detached from reality.
Anyone who has spent time in the kitchen knows it can be therapeutic, and highly creative – why take the joy out of food?”
Gap in food culture
Barny believes that people are losing the essential skills that people need to understand food. It’s easy to place our consumption habits to the bottom of a list of priorities when trying to delicately balance our busy lives.
But this oversight has revealed some telling statistics; the UK is leading the way in Europe’s obesity league, where one in four British adults are obese, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.
Whilst convenient and processed foods are very much a presence in every day modern life, Barny insists that cooking and preparing your own food is a vital skill which can prevent future health problems.
“There is a mechanisation of systems; whether its food production or farming or in the kitchen. We don’t use knives, we use food processors. We don’t use fresh ingredients, we use factory prepared ingredients.
“This unfortunately means that our relationship with food has been slowly eroding. We are now at a point that it’s impacting people’s health. This word wellbeing comes into. The disconnect that people have with their own lives through food, needs to be addressed.
“We need a democratic food culture; one that’s shared by everyone and not just the experienced or privileged few.”
For Barny, helping him understand how he can best support people through his foundation has taken him out of his comfort zone, to appreciate the challenges that others are facing.
“I don’t accept the idea that convenient and processed food is cheaper. I challenged myself to see if I could eat on just £3 per day for a week. Admittedly I didn’t eat much meat but it forces you to be creative.
Fortunately having good cooking skills meant it was possible, and it reinforced the idea that offering out courses to people who depend on benefits and survive on limited incomes mean we can really add value to people’s lives. Preparing food is a life skill, and being able to understand food which includes not only how to cook but how to store and how to organise which can save you far more money in the long term.”
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Square Food Foundation
Square Food Foundation started life in 1998 when Barny taught his first cookery class at his restaurant, Quartier Vert on Whiteladies Road in Bristol. From day one, they operated on a not-for-profit basis. Their masterclasses and private events subsidised their work with schools and community groups and in June 2011, the cookery school was established as a Community Interest Company. As a CIC, they pledge to use every penny of profit to make their community workshops as accessible and affordable as possible. Now based in the heart of Knowle West, South Bristol, Square Food works with groups of teenagers from local schools to help them gain qualifications in Home Cooking, and they’ve worked with groups of care home cooks who are charged with feeding up to 60 elderly and/or disabled people every day.