UHI Inverness opens free food larder for students

UHI Inverness students are able to help themselves to free food, including ingredients for a series of online cookery lessons, from a food store known as The Larder that launched this week.

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Kelly Mackenzie stocking up The Larder

The Larder, two open stocked food cupboards in the main campus building, is the latest in a series of initiatives UHI Inverness has introduced to help ensure students sustain their studies and do not go hungry as a result of the cost-of-living crisis.

Free breakfast and a free lunch of winter soup and a roll is already available to all students every weekday at both the Inverness Campus and the Scottish School of Forestry. Around 650 free breakfasts and 930 free lunches are served to students per week.

Run by volunteers including Supported Education and LEEP Ahead students, The Larder is located in a discrete space behind the Learning Resource Centre in the main UHI Inverness building. It will be open to students to help themselves during campus opening hours.

As well as general non-perishable food supplies, the cupboards will also contain recipe cards and bags of ingredients needed to make a weekly meal during the Zoom cook-along sessions provided by The Cooking Club.

The Larder is run by Kelly MacKenzie, IT Project Manager at UHI Inverness.

She said: “We’ve taken delivery of our first food order and the cupboards are fully stocked, ready for our students to come along and take what they need. We will be placing suggestions cards in The Larder to allow students to let us know if they require particular foods, and we will try to support their requests. Every week over the next month we will also have ingredients bags ready for those who have booked a place on the virtual cooking club, and spares for others who want to use the recipe cards to prepare the meals on their own.”

The Cooking Club will hold four weekly Zoom cook-along sessions at 6.30pm. The first one was held on Wednesday, 1 February. The virtual cooking classes will demonstrate how to prepare affordable, healthy meals from scratch, to help students with budgeting skills and to support their wellbeing. Places for each class can be booked via Eventbrite.

Clare Cousins, a Learning Assistant in Supported Education at UHI Inverness, set up The Cooking Club in 2019 as a social enterprise with her friend Karen Castle to make cooking accessible to all. Both qualified occupational therapists, they came up with the idea for the club after becoming frustrated by not having time to engage in meaningful activities with the adults with learning disabilities they were working with.

Clare said: “I moved to Supported Education at UHI Inverness in the autumn of 2019. With the cost-of-living crisis, we thought it important to think about people's budgets and provide some ideas for cheap, tasty meals and we linked with The Larder to provide these cooking-on-a-budget sessions.” 

There are plans to establish a permanent base for The Larder, designed and built by students, in a grassed area close to the car park at the front of the main campus. 

There are also two cupboards in the student accommodation, managed by student classes, that are stocked with food.

Professor Chris O’Neil, Principal and Chief Executive at UHI Inverness, said: “It is important to us that students know we are here to help provide them with the essentials that are critical to support their wellbeing and to ensure the cost-of-living crisis does not disrupt their studies.

“We are pleased to expand our support for students with the introduction of The Larder, and I would encourage them to take part in the virtual cooking club. It is not just about providing students with food as fuel, it is about having fun, socialising and enjoying the activity of communal cooking.”

To book your place on one of the dates above, visit: The Virtual Cooking Club - Cooking on a Budget Tickets, Multiple Dates | Eventbrite