This year Carers Week will run from Monday 7 until Sunday 13 June 2021 and the theme is to make caring visible and valued. Carers Week is an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges unpaid carers face, and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK.
If the current global pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that we all owe a great debt of gratitude to those on the front line, risking their health and their lives on a daily basis to ensure those who are struggling receive the help and support they need. This Carers Week, it's important to take time to be thankful for and celebrate the dedication of carers working across the UK. It's safe to say that your life and the lives of our loved ones would be very different today without the constant support of our fantastic carers.
At VfL we recognise that supporting carers and enabling them to care effectively and lovingly is vital. It is incredibly important to ensure that our carers are themselves cared for. Their wellbeing is fundamental to ensuring they can continue to sustain the lives of some of the most vulnerable in our communities.
VfL has delivered a range of virtual cooking demonstrations for older carers, from one-off sessions to 6-week themed cooking demonstrations and talks. The sessions are run over Zoom, which allows for Q&A at the end of the demonstration and participants can share their own cooking hints and tips, too.
Following the popularity of our sessions for Carers Wales, we went on to deliver a 6-week block of sessions for Glasgow East End Community Carers. The demonstrations proved a welcome break from lockdown isolation. Glasgow East End Community Carers is an independent carers centre, and has been supporting unpaid carers for nearly 30 years. They offer a full range of carer support including health and wellbeing activities such as Tai-Chi, expressive arts, mindfulness and outdoor pursuits for carers aged 50+ and those they care for.
Participant Audrey Hackett was new to vegetarian cooking and found that the Zoom format fitted perfectly around her caring commitments. Audrey enthused: “I really enjoyed joining in with other carers learning how to cook many vegetarian dishes. Claire showed us how easy it is to make affordable recipes that taste good, too. The format was great because it allowed us to learn a variety of dishes. I enjoyed being able to watch live demonstrations from the comfort of my own home. This meant that all I had to do was join the Zoom meeting to take part – which I found really useful.”
We cooked a range of recipes from the VfL website and the group made suggestions of dishes that it would like to try. The tofu recipes proved to be a crowd pleaser. Participant Kate McDondald suggested that we make the Tofu Noodle Stir Fry.
Health-conscious Kate cares for her son, who is 12. Like many carers she has had to give up work because of her caring role. Kate has been registered with Glasgow East End Community Carers since October 2019 and jumped at the chance to join the VfL cooking sessions.
Kate said: “I loved learning about new foods to cook. I had never cooked with tofu, so this is something I am more confident to use now. Being able to connect over Zoom and learn something new, and also get to meet new people and catch up with everyone for a chat, has been a great way for me to stay connected. I enjoyed the company during lockdown as well as learning new recipes”.
Kate has tried out several recipes at home and went on to say: “I now cook tofu stir-fry for Sonny and he loves it! I’m happy that I’m able to embed healthy eating early in my son’s life and give him the best chance for his future.”
The group was keen to learn about using tofu in different ways so we looked at silken tofu in our simple yet tasty Chocolate Mousse.
Baking has proved to be a popular activity during lockdown, however the group was new to vegan baking. A great introduction is VfL's Raspberry Mug Cake. This sweet treat can be whipped up in a matter of minutes; perfect for busy carers.
With the group keen to learn more about vegan baking, its last session was based around VfL's Vegan Baking Guide. The guide is full of great hints and tips, including how to use aquafaba as an alternative to eggs. We showcased our family favourite Banana Bread, perfect for anyone trying vegan baking for the first time, and we finished off with the rich, decadent Chocolate Brownies.
Kate now feels that she has the confidence to cook for her vegan friend: “I feel more equipped, and the variety of recipes I have to hand is amazing. I’ve been introduced to so many more recipes that I can’t wait to cook for my vegan friend when she’s eventually allowed to visit again. VfL has affirmed that there is a community of like-minded support that will encourage me to continue on my healthy journey.”
“It's fantastic, Kate has now joined the Carers Hub allotment group at Shettleston Growing Project and is looking forward to learning to grow food that she can then use in the great VfL recipes. She’s also planning to use this as a start-point for her own vegetable plot at home. The group certainly did enjoy cooking very much and hope to do more in the future. It was a great success, and really helped them feel connected as well as learning new skills” said Kaye Ramage, Carers Hub Manager.
VfL provides a range of publications and recipes. Our new publication Veg*nism: More than just a diet is a fantastic guide for those caring for vegans or vegetarians, explaining ethical considerations beyond diet, such as toiletries, cosmetics, medicine and bedding. You might also find our Cooking for One and Take V guides useful for quick, easy recipes.
As well as our virtual cookery sessions, we hope to be able to offer in-person demonstrations again post-lockdown. We also offer online British Dietetic Association accredited Care Caterer Training and a 'Meat-Free 101'. Both courses are a perfect introduction if you find yourself caring for someone who is a vegan or vegetarian. If you’d like to find out more or to book a cookery demo or training session for your carers' organisation, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Further information on Carers Week can be found at https://www.carersweek.org/