This was part of the Gardening Scotland show. The Cooking Bus is run by Focus on Food – promoting healthy eating and positive nutrition through practical teaching demonstrations. The buses travel around providing classes for schools during term times, and for groups in local communities during school holidays.
Community Food and Health (Scotland) invited Pilmeny Development Project to take part because of a recent intergenerational cooking pilot project involving older men. CFHS also helped the group to hire a minibus from a local community transport project and pay for a youth worker. The bus was in fact rather like a removal van which opened out into a large, well-equipped demonstration kitchen with a link to a display screen outside allowing others to see and hear the kitchen activities. While the group of four older and three younger people and three support workers settled down round a large table the Cooking Bus staff introduced themselves and spoke about the aims of Focus on Food and the cooking agenda for the morning.
The group prepared and cooked three recipes with everyone working together in small groups and helping each other. After each session, they discussed what they had done, and then the tutor demonstrated the next recipe which included:
- the sensible way to prepare foods and chop vegetables
- points of nutrition
- general discussions on food
By the end of the session, they had made a meal of savoury muffins, kaleidoscope couscous and a rhubarb twist. They discussed how useful this has been and then wrote their views on an evaluation form. Apart from the transport being late every element of the activity (venue, staff, pace, engagement and the chance to repeat the activity) was rated very good.
One person was concerned that it might be ‘teaching your granny to suck eggs’! However afterwards she said, “We all learned from today. No-one was patronised. It was definitely not ‘the cat sat on the mat!’!”
The fact that it was a live relayed session also did not pose any problems as the atmosphere was friendly, the learning absorbing and the recipes interesting and new, so the cameras were soon forgotten.
The intergenerational approach enabled new skills to be learned and existing skills shared. For example, although participants at first stayed with their own age group, the older adults grasped the techniques and finish the tasks more quickly and then turned to help the less experienced young ones.
- Resources are needed – but with some financial help, good planning, networking, goodwill and help in kind, it is possible to get a good intergenerational mix.
- What fun this activity can be!
- Good communication between transport provider and group leader is needed.
- Pair up at the outset to maximise intergenerational exchange.
- Unexpected incidental learning can just happen. One older man revealed that he now knew what a ‘smoothie’ was. “I never realised it had fruit in it – or that it tasted so good!” From this remark an intergenerational smoothie-making session was arranged.
- The Cooking Bus is ideal for all ages, and the Pilmeny Project plans to arrange a visit by the bus to Leith for a few days to develop intergenerational activity around healthy eating and cooking.
Young people said:
“Fantastic – would love to do it again.”
“I had a really good time. Loved it!!!”
“Fantastic event – everyone enjoyed the day lots!!!”
Older adults said:
“It was an enjoyable and informative day.”
“Let’s not delay arranging for the bus to come to our Leith!!!!”
Support workers said:
“The interaction between the generations was very good – everyone took part and really enjoyed it.”
“It was a positive and very enjoyable piece of intergenerational work. It demonstrated that everyone, regardless of age, can learn new skills and share old ones.”