Evaluating the Leicestershire Community Kitchen Scheme
Evaluation Completed February 2023
What does the research mean for Local Authorities?
Leicestershire County Council’s (LCC) strategic priorities focus on what will make life better for people living in Leicestershire. Key areas include the improvement of the economy, wellbeing, safety, community support, environment, and sustainability. A better understanding of how the Community Kitchens scheme can not only help reduce household food waste, but may also improve community support and the health and the wellbeing of participants. A better understanding will also enable the LCC to evidence how the Community Kitchen scheme is contributing to their various strategic priorities.
“Our involvement with PHIRST will have an ongoing legacy that goes beyond the community kitchens. The learning gained and perhaps the methodology developed during this study promises to help us understand the health and wellbeing impacts of some of our other projects focusing upon waste and the environment, and has the potential to help us develop closer partnership working with Public Health in Leicestershire in the future”. Matthew Copley, Leicestershire County Council
What does the evaluation research mean for the Public?
The study findings will help LCC identify the most important health and wellbeing outcomes from participating in the Community Kitchens scheme. The study findings will also help understand who is participating in the Community Kitchen scheme and how participation results in the health and wellbeing outcomes. This is important because these findings could potentially identify future priority locations and populations for the implementation of Community Kitchens, based on health need.
How are the public involved in the evaluation?
Three residents of Leicestershire and three previous Community Kitchen attendees have been recruited to form a public panel for the study. We will work with this group to help develop our study methods and materials (e.g. topic guides, questionnaires, information sheets). This will help ensure our research tools are relevant, inclusive, and accessible to the target population. Working with these individuals will therefore increase the likelihood of eliciting meaningful and valid data.
Lay summary of research
An increased awareness of the positive consequences of reducing household food waste (HHFW) for the environment led Leicestershire County Council (LCC) to apply the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), Love Food Hate Waste (LFHW) resources to set up three community kitchens in 2017. The Community Kitchens operated on a weekly basis to educate residents about cooking methods to reduce HHFW.
All three of the original Community Kitchens applied the six core WRAP resources: 1) meal planning 2) understanding labelling on food 3) using shopping lists 4) storing and using leftovers 5) portioning properly and 6) food storage advice. Additionally, participants were given a food waste diary and recipe book with the aim to educate them to reduce the amount of HHFW that they were producing.
Preliminary results from an internal report of these three original Community Kitchens, suggested that they were effective in reducing HHFW. The report also suggested that the kitchens may have positive health and wellbeing impacts for participants, although the exact nature of these was unclear. Today, there are now six community kitchens. Unlike the original kitchens, these kitchens occur on a fortnightly basis, alternating every other week with a craft session.
Our study aimed to understand what the health and wellbeing impacts of participating in the Community Kitchen (and craft sessions) were for participants and how these were achieved. To do this, we had four research questions:
- What health and wellbeing changes do participants attribute to the Community Kitchen scheme and are those different to those attributed to the craft session?
- How are the health and wellbeing changes achieved?
- How does context effect the health and wellbeing impacts?
- What population groups are the Community Kitchens reaching? (e.g., who is attending and why?)
Data collection methods included observations of Community Kitchen and craft sessions, interviews with staff, volunteers and participants as well as a participant survey. Survey data was obtained to help identify who was attending the Community Kitchens whilst qualitative data from observations and interviews was used to gather a more in-depth exploration of participants’ experiences, interactions and contextual influences.
Matthew Copley, Senior Waste Technician, Leicestershire County Council
James O’Brien, Team Manager Environment Policy & Strategy, Leicestershire County Council
Jenna Parton, Strategic Lead- Wider Determinants of Health, Public Health, Leicestershire County Council
Nailesh Ramaiya, Environment Policy and Strategy, Leicestershire County Council
PHIRST Insight Research Team
Prof Rona Campbell
Prof. Frank DeVocht
Dr China Harrison