“During the pandemic, families have been thrown together in an unprecedented way, unable to see friends, to visit the places they love, or even to go to school, college and work,” says Baytree Catering founder Michelle O’Dwyer. During lockdown, the Baytree team created fun, interactive cookery sessions, designed for them to learn, work together and share great food.
Baytree has plenty of experience cooking in the community. Every year it cooks a Christmas dinner – in 2019 it served 170 people, bringing people from across the city region for dinner. In 2020, it’s worked alongside community volunteers, drivers and community centre’s, including the Joseph Lappin Centre in Old Swan, Granby Children’s Centre, Unity Youth Children’s Centre, The Florrie and The Caribbean Centre. During lockdown it has provided 1,860 food kits, containing 7,440 servings of fresh, nutritious food to families in the L8 and L13 areas of Liverpool.
Debi McAndrew, the children’s centre co-ordinator for Liverpool City Council, says: “In terms of real benefits to families, we can confidently report that children and their parents have reported improved relationships by sharing cooking activities; parents are more aware of healthy eating and how this can be; children are making healthy choices and families are engaging in adult/ child activities which promote and help to develop positive relationships.”
Amongst its many benefits, the programme helped build confidence in cooking skills and food choices. It created intergenerational activities, supported community members who were shielding, alleviated food poverty through the provision of meals and ingredients, and reduced food waste by providing recipes which re-use ingredients.
The recipe kits are made each week on Monday to Wednesday mornings and include hummus and crudites with vegetables and pitta, pizza and coleslaw, chickpea and lentil soup and chocolate chip cookies.
“The recipes have been easy to follow and parents have commented how easy it was to cook from scratch,” says Debi.
“They also report that children are ‘less fussy’ in eating different foods, as they have made it themselves. Overall, this has been a great success. Families have posted their cooking skills on social media and – as a result of sharing via social media – we’ve had messages sent to us from those who haven’t received a recipe bag asking if they can become involved.”
Baytree Catering works with a number of volunteers from marginalised communities to deliver its services, supporting them to begin working within the communities that they serve and helping them into education and work.
“I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t come here. Without Julie and Michelle I’d have been lost,” says Anne-Marie, one of Baytree’s team.
Michelle attended a Kindred event and has since received support to help her rethink what growth might look like for the business. She’s been learning about social impact and has linked Baytree Catering up with other socially-trading businesses to collaborate and reach new customers.