The Blackford Trust - Investing in Talent in Scotland and China

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Please note The Blackford Trust is now closed - this page is retained for purely historic interest

Dr Bell's Family Centre, Edinburgh

Our support

We provided two awards to support the 'Families and Food Initiative' at Dr Bell's Family Centre, Leith, Edinburgh, a community based support centre. The aim of this programme is to teach skills around nutrition, meal planning, budgeting, cooking and sharing food, for the most disadvantaged families in the area.

In 2011, we helped to fund a "cook's school", and in spring 2013, we provided additional support for the day-to-day running of the 'Families and Food Initiative'.

Background to our partner (see also here)

Photos courtesy of Dr Bell's Family Centre

Dr Bell's provides a range of services for families with young children including a cafe, creche, parenting and other support groups, advice appointments and therapeutic services.

Dr Bell's aims to be a welcoming place where families with young children in Leith can get encouragement, support and advice in a relaxed atmosphere. The Centre aims :

  • to create a community where parents and carers get help with parenting

  • to achieve an improvement in parenting skills

  • to create a community that looks after its children and helps them to grow

  • to provide families with the services they need locally

  • to help local parents develop their skills through a variety of volunteering and training opportunities

  • to give children and families the help and support they need quickly

  • to help families to learn about healthy eating

  • to improve mental health in families with young children

Outcomes and lessons

Update November 2011

The objective of the "cook's school" is to teach cooking skills to many parents who did in turn not learn them from their parents. In addition, the shared activities of cooking and eating will build relationships between parents and children and strengthen family life. The school will also focus on encouraging parents to shop locally and use fresh local ingredients. All this, in turn, strengthens the life of a community.

The cook's school was formally opened by renowned local chef Martin Wishart and pupils from Trinity primary school on 16 November 2011. Supporters and friends of the Centre enjoyed some superb snacks produced in the kitchen, while Martin demonstrated some of his skills to the children. Steve Cochrane, the Centre's cook-trainer, said "we believe the social side of the work we do with food is at least as important as the health angle. Cooking together is a great way of building the strengths of families and communities". The event was also attended by the local media, including STV.

Chef Martin Wishart formally opens the cook's school with a little help from his young friends

Local people enjoying learning about healthy eating at a recent course at the school

Cook-trainer Steve Cochrane demonstrates his chopping skills to local people taking one of the school's first courses

Photos courtesy of Dr Bell's Family Centre

Everyone at Dr Bell's is congratulated for their excellent achievement in bringing this project to fruition so quickly.

Update June 2013

Having been very impressed with the excellent work done at the cook's school since it opened, in spring 2013 we provided additional support for the day-to-day running of the 'Families and Food Initiative'. This will help Dr Bell's continue to run cookery classes for both parents and children in Leith, as well as to maintain their cafe and their programme of community meals.

Update November 2013

The Dr Bell's cafe continues to provide a good service, with healthy food at very affordable prices, and a welcoming atmosphere. Two days a week, a volunteer joins the cook in the kitchen, which is an excellent opportunity for someone to play a part in community life, and develop new skills and self-confidence. In the year to 31 March 2013, the cafe had over 3,400 customers.

Over the last year, the cook school served 26 parents in classes, and a further 20 from a local Asian Women's Group. They have learnt simple recipes, ensuring that healthy ingredients and local shopping is targeted, and then shared a meal at the end of the class, helping to put cookery back into its social context. In many families, along with the loss of cooking skills, the idea of a meal being an important focus for family and friends has also been forgotten. During the cooking classes, the group talks about the importance of families getting together over a meal, and how this is significant in fostering bonding within families, with all the on-going benefits of attachment and good communication.

Update May 2014

The Dr Bell's cafe continues to flourish, with around 4,000 customers in the year to 31 March 2014.

The cook school has also had a very successful year, working with 65 adults and 45 children from a local primary school. The adults included a Chinese women's group from the Multi-Cultural Family Base in Edinburgh (whom the Trust supported in 2011-2012). From this group of Chinese mothers, one said, “it was great to be able to cook something that children might like. I have tried fish pie at home, my son liked it, he likes potato.“ Another said, “my husband would like to do the classes too. I let him taste the food I cooked, he said the local British food turns out to be very tasty“.

Parents from both the Asian and Chinese communities are experiencing pressure from their own children to cook more Western style meals, particularly from the children who attend both primary and secondary schools. Peer pressure on many of the children results in them adopting Western eating habits, and spending less time sitting at the table with the rest of the family. Dr Bell's approach, and that of the parents, is that children will always be tempted by new options. But in their classes, parents can learn how to demonstrate healthy alternatives to their children. Also, there are ways of home-cooking some of the snacks or meals that the child has seen at school or out and about, with less additives and healthier ingredients.

Everyone at Dr Bell's is to be congratulated for their continued excellent programmes and outcomes.

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This page was last updated on 18 July 2016.

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