Going back to basics with prisoners
We created courses for our beneficiaries as many of them haven’t had the opportunity to cook fresh food, let alone learn how to budget before. An essential part of our work with prisons is to support new food-growing projects, but it’s also important to teach the prisoners how to cook the food they’ve grown. Knowing how to grow, source, prepare and cook food, so it retains as much nutrition as possible, is such a vital tool that many of us take for granted.
Our courses include top tips such as growing and eating seasonal foods, foraging ideas, and where to find fresh food on a tight budget.
Cooking on a Shoe String
During one of these sessions at HMP Hollesley Bay almost everything we cooked was grown in the prison gardens. In addition we bought 3 chickens from the supermarket; one cheap, one medium-priced and one higher-priced free-range chicken.
The idea was to demonstrate that, although the cheapest might seem the best, when they were all cooked the more expensive represented better value as it did not shrink, was tastier and more filling. Ethics aside, free range animals have so much more exercise that a single chicken would provide you with four meals instead of two! We explained that animals stressed by battery conditions are often fed more chemicals such as antibiotics and they contain more fat having had little or no exercise.
As a group we also discussed the basic dry goods that you should aim to have in your store cupboard, like couscous, brown rice, onions, garlic and soy sauce, so if things get tight towards the end of the week you can still make a meal.
The proof is in the pudding (or the chicken)
The cooking! We looked at what we had in our kitchen store cupboard and on this occasion everyone chose what they wanted to make. We made pizzas, with fresh herb bases adding nutrition as well as taste, chicken and fresh vegetable topping. There was also roast chicken with roasted vegetables, chicken soup and vegetable ratatouille. We then sat together and shared the food we’d made.
Just as we finished clearing up one of the younger men gave us one of the two small pizzas he’d made. He loves pizza. This was his way of saying thank you and it made the entire day even more worthwhile.
Each time we run the course (once a fortnight) we get three or four people knocking on the door, asking if they can be put on the list for next time. It seems to be a valuable and popular initiative at the prison!
If this is something you’d like to get involved with, or you have any other ideas, please do get in touch.