People from over 27 different nationalities came together for an “Intercultural Cookbook” project with St. John’s Junior & Senior Schools in Kilkenny. This is part of their “Family Learning Programme”, bringing together parents, grandparents, and carers to swap cooking recipes and get involved in cooking demonstrations.
The project also builds relationships between people, and encourages people to get out and about in the community through library visits and other local outings. The project resulted in increased positive mental health, and a stronger sense of belonging and connection for people from different backgrounds and cultures.
The "Intercultural Cookbook” recently featured on KCLR96FM, Kilkenny and Carlow’s number 1 radio station.
In an interview on the “Home Run” radio show, presenter Shannon Redmond spoke with Carmel O'Neill, a Family Learning Coordinator with Kilkenny and Carlow Education and Training Board, Orla Mackey, Home School Liaison Coordinator for St John's Junior and Senior School, and Frances O'Sullivan, a parent from the school and a participant in the “Intercultural Cookbook” project.
Carmel, Orla, and Frances are delighted that the Cookbook project has been shortlisted for an AONTAS STAR Award, recognising and celebrating their achievement and impact in adult learning and on people’s health and wellbeing.
Speaking about the project on radio, Carmel talking about their focus on people from other countries, from South Sudan to Portugal to South Africa to Ukraine, and on Irish people and Irish Traveller parents and carers.
They are particularly interested, she said, in helping people from lower socio-economic backgrounds, people struggling with their mental health or a lack of self-confidence, people who had negative experiences at school.
“We really wanted to do a project that revolved around mental health and wellbeing. With an idea of a school cookbook, we thought, because there's so many different nationalities within the school, we wanted to celebrate that and really emphasise the feel-good factor of parents and carers coming together and sharing different cultures and different recipes from when they were young and different food experiences. And that's how it all began.”
Some of the most important benefits for the people involved in the project were a sense of belonging and inclusion in a group with a common purpose. This helped people feel more self-confident and gain a greater sense of self-esteem, while also learning new things and integrating with the local community.
As Orla told Shannon on the radio show, “food creates a great common bond with people because people love to come together to enjoy food together. With that common ground of sharing and the collecting the recipes, a huge amount of learning took place, from the practical hands-on cooking to literacy skills, budgeting, and meal planning. And then there was the really valuable friendships and connections within and outside of the school community.”
Orla describes local outings to Roland House Cookery School and Goodley Barrow Cafe in Gore's Bridge, as well as local coffee shops and supermarkets.
“I used to come back in buzzing,” she says, “it was so enjoyable and there was a huge amount of laughter and great camaraderie among the group.”
The project has now been shortlisted for a STAR Award for an adult learning group that helps people with their health and wellbeing.
Winners will be announced at the awards ceremony in Croke Park in Dublin on the 8th of March. #