Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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ChangeKitchen a year on

July 07 2011
Hard work and big success for service users

 

Community Interest Company ChangeKitchen is celebrating its one-year anniversary this month. The social enterprise works in partnership with Birmingham-based SIFA Fireside, providing accredited training in food preparation for adults who are in temporary accommodation or have had drug or alcohol issues in the past. ChangeKitchen offers the service user employees a six-month paid work placement, and staff at SIFA Fireside provide ongoing support so they can access mainstream employment within the local community when they have completed their placement.

ChangeKitchen specialises in providing vegetarian and vegan buffet-style food at corporate and private events regionally. In the past year, they have catered for large, high-profile events including conferences and weddings. ChangeKitchen administrator Sally Woodroffe said: “We are enthusiastic about changing people’s attitudes towards vegan and vegetarian food. It’s definitely healthier and doesn’t have to be bland. After our first year, we still have lots of potential to expand to businesses within the community.”

When asked about any challenges ChangeKitchen has faced in its first year, co-founder and director of ChangeKitchen, Birgit Kehrer, told The Pavement: “This project involves a lot of hard work and it can be stressful for anyone working in a high-pressured environment. Some of our service user employees have struggled, but SIFA Fireside is on-hand to provide counselling and support throughout their placements.”

Colin, who formerly was homeless and dependent on alcohol, was one of the first service user employees to be given a paid placement with ChangeKitchen and has proved to be a real success. He has been awarded permanent employment at ChangeKitchen and is really happy in his role as kitchen assistant and trainee chef. Beaming with enthusiasm he told The Pavement: “You learn from your mistakes and my experience at ChangeKitchen is all positive. There are always new things to do. Training in food preparation is ongoing. I still have a passion for cooking and I am always pleased to learn new ideas and recipes. I have learnt to work as part of a team and appreciate how this opportunity has allowed me to make new friends. I haven’t touched a drop of alcohol in five years and I’ve had a flat of my own for the last 12 months. I love to come home and experiment with new dishes such as apple and pear pie.”

When asked about future plans, he replied: “I take each day as it comes and my biggest challenge is keeping my job.”

ChangeKitchen offered a further six-month contract to the second service user employee, Roman, who has enjoyed his paid work placement at ChangeKitchen and said he will be sad to leave. He told The Pavement: “We have been very busy at ChangeKitchen and there is not a lot of room to move, but it has been a good training course and I have learnt a lot about vegetarian food. I want to stay in England and get another job. I have distributed my CV around local companies and am waiting to hear about an interview.”

The small kitchen is a major problem, and Ms Kehrer is busy trying to get funding from the Big Lottery and social enterprise Echo Architects, based in Sheffield. She added: “We definitely need a bigger venue and larger kitchen, together with a bistro outlet to complement our services”.

She would also like to spend less time in the kitchen and more developing new ideas and promoting ChangeKitchen in the community. When asked what advice she would give to others hoping to start a social enterprise, Ms Kehrer said: “It was a big learning curve for me... I would definitely suggest seeking advice from other social enterprise organisations such as the Institute of Social Enterprise and Social Enterprise West Midlands, as they can offer invaluable guidance and support.”

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