Community Food Initiatives North East is a social enterprise and charity improving nutritional health and wellbeing in the Aberdeenshire area. The work they do covers all sorts - food education, cooking, community growing and budgeting skills, among many other projects. We were happy to be able to support this vital organisation by donating ingredients for use in their upcoming cooking sessions, and Fiona from CFINE answered our questions below to tell us a bit more about them.
1. Tell us about how it all started.
Back in the mid 1990's, seven food cooperatives came together to form an unincorporated association: 'Food Cooperatives Network North East'.
From this Network, Community Food Initiatives North East (CFINE) grew, and was registered as a limited company in January 2004, becoming a charity at a later date. CFINE Enterprise Ltd. was registered with Companies House in September 2007.
CFINE is a very different organisation today from back in 1997, with a far greater range of services, support and activities benefitting much larger numbers (in the thousands) of disadvantaged, vulnerable, low-income people and families across Aberdeen and the North of Scotland.
2. How many people are involved in your organisation?
CFINE employs 40 staff and we also have over 200 volunteers who support the organisation in all areas of development.
A 'Cook at the Nook' cooking class
3. Tell us a little about the people you cook / provide food for.
We operate a successful training kitchen called “Cook at the ‘Nook”. Pre-Covid, we delivered cooking sessions to many groups and individuals, offering classes such as “Cooking on a Budget” and using food as a vehicle to encourage group events and to prevent social isolation, build confidence and increase self-esteem. Unfortunately, during Covid, we have been unable to deliver these classes, but we hope to be open again soon!
4. There are several different parts of the organisation (growing, cooking etc). Can you tell us a little more?
CFINE delivers a number of projects within the organisation. As well as the community training kitchen we also have a community growing project, helping to develop sustainable growing spaces for shared use across Aberdeen. We also provide emergency food provision, and work with Fareshare to distribute surplus food throughout seven local authority areas. We have community pantries too, and also facilitate access to free sanitary products. We have a wholesale fruit & veg enterprise, and ‘Vegaroonitoon’, our Fruit & Veg box scheme, allows people to order fruit & veg boxes straight to their doors; this is an affordable way of shopping for fresh produce with supports our development work elsewhere. We also offer training courses based around employability skills, we offer support around benefits & budgeting, and we run CBT group sessions too.
The Community Growing Project
5. What steps need to be taken to improve people’s health?
Through support and education, we can increase engagement within disadvantaged communities to provide information around healthy food. Provision of healthy foods at low cost is vital in order to allow people to make healthier choices.
6. You can pick one chef/person to come and work with you, who is it and why?
Jamie Oliver! We have recently been successful in a bid to participate in “The Ministry of Food” – this is a training scheme developed by Jamie Oliver, aimed at getting people cooking and inspiring them to eat better and more nutritious food.
Find out more about Community Food Initiatives North East at their website, www.cfine.org