THE PLANT-BASED COMMUNITY COOKERY SCHOOL
Hannah Walker is a dietician, vegan long distance runner and stalwart MIH volunteer and community outreach stall leader. Our founder Sarah chats to Hannah about why, despite a hectic and rewarding job with the NHS, she finds time to be part of Made In Hackney.
Sarah: Why did you start volunteering with MIH?
Hannah: I came across MIH at a local community festival and loved everything about what they were doing and the message. The connection between nutrition, environment and community is wonderful. I really wanted to help people realise cooking healthy food is exciting, fun, easier than they may think, and most importantly delicious!
Sarah: What was your first volunteering experience with us like?
Hannah: It was a 6-week International Cuisine course. Each week we taught participants to cook dishes from a different culture - Indian, Middle Eastern, Caribbean, Mexican and Italian. On the final week, I volunteered to take the lead and teach people to cook various Ethiopian dishes, as I’m half Ethiopian. This was a real pleasure and privilege for me. As a volunteer, I would arrive early to help set up and then stay behind to help clear away, but also I helped deliver the nutrition education. I loved building a rapport with the participants who would come back week after week, and it was great to see their enthusiasm grow as they discovered new dishes that they enjoyed cooking and eating.
Sarah: What courses and classes (the highlights) have you done so far?
Hannah: I’ve helped with Family and Young Carers courses as well as the Young Masterchef summer school classes we ran in Islington. I’ve always loved working with kids and enjoy the challenge of trying to get them to eat more veggies! I’ve also helped with several Masterclasses, including Wild Food Cookery, Gourmet Mushrooms, Fermentation and from the VIP series, Doctor Kitchen and Plant Powered Fitness. They’ve all been amazing! I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to be involved.
Sarah: Has the experience helped with your professional development?
Hannah: Yes. I’m a qualified dietitian so whilst I don’t cook as part of my job I interact with people and patients talking about food and nutrition on a daily basis. For MIH I’ve delivered a Healthy Eating talk to an over 50’s group, and this is very similar to the sorts of nutrition education talks I give as part of my job. My experience at MIH has certainly helped me gain confidence in communicating healthy eating message to a diverse range of community members.
Sarah: Do you think it helped you get your current job?
Hannah: Very possibly yes! I’m a dietitian at the Homerton Hospital so I did talk about my MIH experiences in my interview. Whenever suitable I recommend my patients look into attending MIH classes, so my current job and MIH volunteering tie in well together!
Sarah: What’s most and least fun thing about volunteering with MIH?
Hannah: The people. We nearly always end up having a good laugh together. The big events and festivals are always frantic and hard work but a lot of fun too. The least fun thing is tricky as I even don’t mind washing up. Maybe mopping the floor?
Sarah: Most rewarding thing?
Hannah: Meeting and working with such a wide range of people. I love how MIH brings together such a wide range of people from diverse backgrounds, and yet when we’re all in the kitchen together we are all on the same level and bond over cooking and enjoying good food. The most rewarding thing is teaching people how to create simple yet delicious plant-based food and empowering them to make positive changes to their diets. It’s especially wonderful when you get fussy kids gobbling up veg-packed dishes and asking for more!
Sarah: You recently stepped up from being a volunteer to leading outreach events. How’s this been?
Hannah: The first event was a festival called ‘Street Life’ on Wells Street common. I prepped several recipes beforehand and on the day encouraged people to do the final assembly. We did chipotle black bean lettuce wraps with mango salsa and avocado dressing, and a choice of chocolate orange or gingerbread energy bites. Everyone got involved and the food went down really well.
Recently I lead an interactive educational MIH stall at The Royal London hospital for families and children with chronic bowl disorders. I decided on the theme of ‘eating the rainbow’ as we really wanted to promote increased fibre intake. We had the kids making rainbow pitta pizzas, celery bugs and again rolling out their own energy balls. I was a bit worried about how the celery bugs would work out but was amazed at how creative the kids got with them…we had caterpillars (with grapes and blueberry bodies) and snails (with kiwi shells)!
Sarah: What have you gained from your MIH experience?
Hannah: A huge amount. Confidence at leading classes and events. New friends. Cooking inspiration and skills. And most importantly a real sense of community and shared passion.
Sarah: Thankyou so much Hannah! We’re so lucky to have you.