Eat Together: Riverside supports the health and wellbeing of veterans

Veterans at Riverside’s The Beacon in North Yorkshire are developing new cookery skills which are helping to boost their confidence as well as tackling feelings of social isolation.

Over the last few years, residents at The Beacon have had the opportunity to learn how to cook and bake in the Veterans Artisan Bakery with the support of a Therapeutic Baker.

 The Beacon in Catterick Garrison North Yorkshire.
Marco Pierre White with The Beacon residents.

Current activities include learning how to cook, bake, shop and eat on a budget and recognising the importance of a healthy diet through regular sessions every Friday and Sunday. The bakery also invites the general service community in to share the experience and has offered cookery classes to local school children and adults wanting to learn. It supports local fetes and Churches by donating food that has been produced by residents with the help of the baker. This in turn has given the residents a sense of pride, knowing someone values and wants something they have made.

To coincide with Riverside’s Eat Together campaign throughout June, which promotes the importance of social eating to bring people together, there will be several events taking place along with a Come Dine With Me style cook off competition planned for later in the month, which will involve both residents and staff.

Riverside is committed to supporting vulnerable ex-service personnel to get back on their feet, many of whom have struggled to thrive back into civilian life. The Beacon comprises 31 one-bedroom fully furnished flats and offers support not just through the bakery but also through its Training, Education and Employment centre and Health and Wellbeing centre.

The Beacon residents are learning, cooking and experiencing the therapeutic nature of baking, making wholesome specialities at the community bakery such as beef stew, chicken casserole, cottage pie, toad-in-the hole, as well as special patisserie requests, such as chocolate brownies and tarte tatin.

Recent research from Dunbar showed that 76% of people surveyed felt that dining with others brought people closer together, enhancing the sense of community amongst the army veterans and reducing any feelings of loneliness.

Marco Pierre White with The Beacon residents.

Rosalyn Taylor, Riverside Care & Support Therapeutic Baker at The Beacon, said: “The main purpose of the bakery is to help people gain skills for life, so our residents learn how to prepare their own food rather than buying takeaways and ready meals. This means the food is more nutritious, and there is the benefit of engaging in socialising. Importantly, our residents enjoy the social aspects of cooking together, working together as a team to achieve a goal and then eating the results of their efforts. All this helps to reinforce the therapeutic power of preparing and eating healthy food.

“We provide a calm, comfortable environment and the residents gain a sense of achievement. Some of the younger residents we support have not had experience of food preparation or the chance to develop home life-skills, so we support them with budgeting and developing new skills.

“The residents get a real buzz out of cooking and sharing the food they have made, and the positive feedback from this which helps build confidence.’’