Lest we forget: Learnings from the Kit for Kitchens Project.

Nourish coordinated a project on a small Scottish Government (Pockets & Prospects) grant, that offered ‘essential kitchen equipment’ to households in early 2022. Eleven partner organisations from across Scotland approached households through their community meals, cooking- and other food-related activities and distributed just over £6k worth of kitchen kit to 105 households from a wide range of ethnicities. Partners commented that their £600 went really far.

Overall, the three most popular items the householders selected were hand blenders, knife sets and baking trays. Households loved receiving the kit and all parties said the project had deepened relationships and extended connections between everybody. The feedback speaks for itself:

‘I can make new dishes and do baking!’

‘I love to cook with good utensils and shiny things!’

‘I needed more equipment to help me look after the kids better’

‘There is more need than we realised for kitchen equipment, and people having access to this encourages them to become more active in the kitchen.’

‘We got to know our people better – How they manage their food, what they aspire to, and so on.’

Not least, this project again reinforced lessons that we learn in similar projects of its kind:

Many households make do with very little, and fundamentally challenge the notion ‘essential’. For many, there are always more important other things that they need to spend their money on, so they never buy anything new. There is no space to store it. They expect to be on the move again soon. They are realistic about what food they are able to prepare with the space, facilities and equipment available. They know how to prioritise accordingly on a day-to-day basis. Like most people, they have hopes for improving their meals and choose kit that they expect will make their life easier and/or nicer in some way.

We cannot therefore make assumptions about what people need and want, and the choice (of what kit will improve their life) is necessarily and rightfully theirs. Some sought to replace items or treat themselves to something new (a clean chopping board, a better knife, a new pan!). Some chose things for embarking on new cooking initiatives (a blender, baking trays, scales!). Some chose convenience tools (a sandwich maker!). Some chose kit they could never afford alone (an air fryer!).

Many people experience a powerful sense of shame during shortfalls, especially when they occur around food and food activities, when having to declare these to others, and when receiving state handouts that attempt to make up for these. We work hard to try to take the edge off this, for example, by recognising the importance of building trust, by using rights-based language, and generally, in the many other ways of embedding the dignity principles in our work.

But the threshold around asking for assistance sits at different levels for different households. Partners observed that it seemed easier for some if they felt that they had earned the kit in some way. We discussed how we might create this sense of contribution for them (e.g. by asking households to take a turn at sharing a recipe on WhatsApp). However, it is tricky to strike the right balance for the range of participants in their different contexts, and sadly, some households felt out of reach.

It reinforces again the importance of offering our goods as part of community-building activities. Firstly, this helps to overcome shame (there is no need to publicly acknowledge shortfalls if the request is staged as part of other activities). The social connections established or consolidated in the process also build resilience at the same time.

Lest I forget, here is the checklist I have again pinned on my wall:

Active work is always needed on overcoming shame

Define anything as ‘essential’ at your peril, and, of course,

Always take a proper look at the Dignity Principles.

For more information about this project, please contact miesbeth@nourishscotland.org.uk

We thank our funders, our partners for their interest in this work and the insights and energies they put into it, and our participants for their inputs (and, in some cases, for sticking with us while we ironed out our processes).