A long-term project designed to help people in Wolverhampton learn to cook and achieve a healthy diet on a budget has seen a 30% increase in demand for its services.

WV10 Community Chefs, which was initially launched by WV10 Consortium and is now part-funded by Wolverhampton City Council, has hosted more than 200 sessions in the last six months as individuals look for new solutions to overcome the cost-of-living crisis. Two full-time chefs, Simon Clark and Prince Robinson, are putting on the 2-hour sessions at venues across the WV10 area of Wolverhampton to educate children, adults, families and the elderly on how to put together and cook nutritious meals without it costing lots of money.

This equates to a ‘six-week skills boost’ for more than 320 people, with participants learning how to cook chicken and Spaghetti Bolognese amongst other dishes, utilising fresh ingredients they don’t normally use and creating a weekly meal plan on a budget. Importantly, individuals also get the opportunity to socialise, build confidence and take everything they produce in the session back home to eat.

“The last six months have definitely been our busiest time,” explained Simon, who has been a WV10 Community Chef for more than ten years.

“There’s been a 30% increase in the number of people wanting to take part in the programme and we’re now in a position where we are taking registrations for the start of 2024 - that’s how many people want to be involved. With the cost-of-living crisis deepening and winter approaching, we want to equip children, parents, people with mental health issues and the elderly with everything they need to produce healthy meals.

“It can seem a daunting task, but we can show them how to do it by teaching them how to bake, batch cook and make great-tasting dishes that appeal to all the family.” Prince Robinson, who is the second Community Chef employed by WV10, went on to add: “Our courses are a fun and informative way of gaining essential life skills, whilst also meeting new people and learning ideas from other people’s life experiences.

“There’s a lady that previously just relied on food out of packets, but now she’s cooking meatballs and coconut chicken curry from scratch - that’s amazing progress.” WV10 Community Chefs are currently part funded by Wolverhampton City Council, alongside the fundraising efforts of consortium partners, including Big Venture Centre and Fifth Avenue Community Centre.

Bosses behind the programme are encouraging local businesses to come forward and back the project, either through donating food and ingredients or delivering a cash boost so the programme can be expanded to support even more people. WV10 Consortium’s Louisa Edwards conclude: “This project has been a resounding success and we’re keen for other areas in Wolverhampton and the Black Country to take our blueprint and roll it out to their communities.

“Wolverhampton City Council are extending the reach of WV10 Community Chefs through a series of videos they are about to film, and we hope that the message of what we are doing will get through to even more people.” WV10 Community Chefs runs Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays and is fully booked up to the last week of Christmas.

Families and individuals can start putting their names forward for the courses, which will accommodate up to ten people each session.