Practical training for staff and volunteers

This week saw the first training day that I had arranged with educational food consultant, Francine Russell from All about Food. Francine offers ‘train the trainer’ sessions and is used to working with community food projects.

We had sat down together a couple of weeks ago to work out a bespoke training day for the Cook2Learn team of 8 volunteers, 7 health trainers, 2 of the community learning team and 2 library staff. The training would be split over two days to offer an option on dates and have sensible sized groups.

Francine did a great job fitting a huge amount into a day and carefully balancing the different levels of knowledge the participants had, in order to make the session valuable to all. We were able to cover many areas such as food groups, sugar, salt, fat, knife skills, icebreaker resources and games, managing groups, hands-on demonstrations, running a food programme in an unusual environment and the benefits of working from libraries.

The day went well and the feedback from the evaluation forms was excellent.

However a number of concerns were expressed during the day and it became apparent to me that I still have quite a bit of work to do on pulling the team together and ensuring that everyone really gets the positive benefits of running a project like this from libraries.

One or two felt that not using full cooking with hobs, grills and ovens would mean that the workshops would be unsuccessful and customers would be disappointed. The project was never about teaching people how to cook, the food is the hook but the project aims are to help improve health and wellbeing by raising awareness of healthier food choices and increasing confidence in key skills, through food.

The advice I have been given right from the start, from a variety of people, is to keep the workshops as simple as possible when it comes to food and cooking. This makes absolute sense, if we can provide good quality advice and information about food, health, resources and services through hands-on, fun, practical two-hour workshops we will be succeeding. Practically speaking, if the food preparation is kept simple and risks are low, Cook2Learn sessions can be replicated in many spaces, allowing us to reach far more people. A wide variety of food can be used without cooking or baking including: making dips, wraps, healthy drinks, lots of ways with fruit, breakfast options, lunch box options, couscous, salads etc.  The fact that this is raised as a concern means that I need to work harder at getting everyone to understand the key aims and objectives so they can deliver the positive messages and achieve the desired outcomes. The marketing of the workshops will also need to be very clear to manage customer expectations.

The session also highlighted the very different ways in which the library service and health trainers work with customers and how we will all need to be adaptable.

The health trainers are used to working with their clients in one-to-one confidential, private settings and are worried that people will find workshops in an open library intimidating. Libraries are used to running events and activities in open libraries, as are our customers. Libraries are open access for all, so health trainers are likely to meet people who are not their usual target audience but could still benefit from their support. Libraries are likely to meet health trainer clients who have never been library users and do not see libraries as being relevant to them.  Health trainers may not usually think to show their clients where in the library they might find books and resources on diet, cooking, health and wellbeing. Equally library staff may not think of signposting customers to health trainers for practical support. By being flexible, having greater knowledge and understanding of each others services and customers, we should all be able to benefit from new, improved partnership working.

We have one more group to go through training, so I will be more prepared for these concerns at the second session.

I am now in the process of finalising the session plans with the health trainer’s manager, before we run four pilot sessions in November. The pilots will be using volunteers as workshop customers, giving everyone the opportunity to run through sessions together, increase confidence, iron out any issues and allow the team to practice in library settings before we go live in the New Year.

img_4841In the mean time library books and kitchen equipment have been ordered and are starting to arrive in boxes at our library depot – this is very exciting news!