Blog post by GFO intern Julia Johnstone

Did you know that only 28% of adults eat the recommended minimum 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day*?

The Good Food Cooking Toolkit aims to encourage and help people to eat more vegetables, and to create healthy, tasty dishes without the need for recipes or fancy ingredients. It was originally created during a series of pilot cooking classes in 2018 and 2019, which were part of the Veg Cities project.

The idea behind the Good Food Cooking Toolkit is that preparing good food from scratch doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Using a few simple steps, anyone can create a delicious meal with whatever vegetables and ingredients they have available.  This makes the toolkit ideal for people who receive food parcels with a random mix of vegetables. It’s also a great way of getting fresh ideas on what to do with produce from an allotment, garden or veg box. One participant in the research said that the toolkit “Opened my eyes to what you can do with vegetables”. Another benefit of this approach is that using up ingredients rather than buying new ones is that it reduces food waste.

The Good Food Cooking Toolkit has proved a very useful as a tool for teaching in cooking sessions, and we now wanted to make it more accessible to a wider range of people, and even more useful for everyone cooking at home.

During my internship with GFO, I worked on a research project to find out what people think about the toolkit and how it can be tweaked. Participants in my study were encouraged to use the toolkit to prepare at least one veg-based meal at home, and then do a short interview (over online calls or phone, due to limitations imposed by COVID-19) to talk about their experience, and their thoughts on how the toolkit could be changed and improved. Individuals tried out the toolkit at home, making delicious-looking dishes and then sharing their feedback and opinions on the toolkit with me. This gave a lot of insight into how best to change the toolkit and make it easier to use and more helpful. 

Photos from Participants trying out the toolkit

Another set of interviews was done with representatives of groups that support people to access or cook healthy food, such as the Oxford Food Access Alliance, Oxford Mutual Aid, the Cherwell Larder, Waste2Taste and IWAW. Their input was extremely appreciated, and experience from members of these organisations was very useful in informing the new toolkit design.

I was delighted to hear how many people loved and supported the idea behind the toolkit, thinking it was a great way to reduce food waste and come up with healthy meal ideas that incorporate far more vegetables than they usually would. It was also lovely to see the pictures people sent in of the delicious food they had created whilst testing out the toolkit.  Hearing that the toolkit had given people new ideas of how to cook and eat veg was amazing: “It allowed us to try new things – I didn’t realise you can roast carrots and things like that”. 

Some participants documented the process of making a meal using the toolkit – with delicious looking results

The main suggestions for tweaks to the existing toolkit design were to reduce the amount of text and include more images or graphics, to make the toolkit more engaging. One participant said, “The content provided is great, but it would be better if it was more visual”. Additionally, making the process clearer, so it is easier to follow the toolkit from start to finish to create a meal, was discussed. Other ideas included adding more information about how to prepare vegetables, and also making an online version of the toolkit with recipe and tutorial videos to explain how to cook and prepare different vegetables.

Thank you to everyone who took part in the research for all your fantastic feedback and ideas – your time and involvement was crucial for the project and is very much appreciated.

We are excited to now get working on the next steps to develop the toolkit further. In the near future, we will add video tutorials, inspirations for meals to cook with the toolkit and other useful cooking resources online at goodfoodoxford.org/cooking-resources. And we are proud that the new graphic version of the cooking toolkit will be included in Waste2Taste’s upcoming cookbook.

Watch this space for the launch of the new graphic edition of the Good Food Cooking Toolkit in October. Meanwhile, you can download the original version here.

The development of the new version of the Good Food Cooking Toolkit is supported by Veg Places Oxfordshire, Sustainable Food Places, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, National Lottery Community Fund, Oxford University Career Service and Oxfordshire County Council


*Health Survey for England, 2018, National Statistics

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