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Accessible Cook Book Launched With Reading University Grant

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Funding from the University of Reading has helped launch an accessible recipe book designed to help people with learning disabilities improve their cooking skills and learn more about healthy eating.

Accessible cook book - Reading university grant
Image credits: Sophie Carson / University of Reading

The Maymessy cook book has been put together by Style Acre, an organisation that supports people with learning disabilities and autism throughout Oxfordshire, and Maymessy, a South Oxfordshire cookery school that empowers disadvantaged groups to gain greater wellbeing through developing cookery skills and knowledge.

The two organisations have been working in partnership for two years to provide safe, inclusive cookery sessions where people with learning disabilities and autism learn how to prepare nutritious food from ingredients which are home-grown, from local suppliers, or from local food projects.

A cook book for everyone

As a natural progression of the partnership, they wanted to create a recipe book that shared the recipes, learnings and skills gained through the cookery classes to inspire more people with learning disabilities to learn to cook healthy food.

However, the costs of printing and binding 250 copies of the book were a barrier to making this happen. In June 2023, with the support of Claire Newbold, Student Experience and Employability Lead from the School of Mathematical Physical & Computational Sciences, they applied to the University’s Community Fund initiative.

The Community Fund scheme allows University staff members who work with charities as part of their job or in a voluntary capacity to apply for one-off grants to help support community projects across the Thames Valley (defined as within the counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire or Oxfordshire).

Style Acre’s full funding request of almost £1,900 was provided by the University. Once ready, the printed copies of the recipe book were distributed to people supported by Style Acre and other charities and schools that support people with learning disabilities in Oxfordshire.

Anita Powell, Ways to Wellness Manager at Style Acre, said: “The main aim of our collaboration with Maymessy has been to improve the wellbeing of people with learning disabilities through supporting their cookery skills and understanding of nutritious, healthy food.

“The sessions, held in the beautiful countryside surroundings at Maymessy, have provided a fantastic opportunity for people with a wide variety of needs to get hands-on in the kitchen and try lots of new foods and cooking techniques.

“The recipe book is an extension of those sessions, and compiles tried and tested recipes featuring the people we support and their views on how learning to cook healthy foods has benefitted them. We hope that by sharing the memories of our time with Maymessy and the skills learnt in this recipe book, we can help more people to continue eating well and living well.”

The book has been written with very clear instructions and pictures to go with each recipe, as well as quotes and pictures of some of the people who have benefitted from these cookery classes.

Jamie, a member of the Style Acre community who took part in the cookery classes, said: “I have learnt more recipes and new skills like learning how to chop and grating. I have tried new things like celeriac soup. I have enjoyed everything and I am loving cooking here.”

The Maymessy recipe book can be purchased online or is available in Childrey Stores on Childrey High Street, Oxfordshire.

Accessible cook book acknowledgements

The cookery classes and recipe book were made possible by a team of volunteers and funders. Volunteers included: Maia Sissons (recipes); Sophie Carson (photography); Lydia Inglis (proof reading); Laure Arnold (design); Chrissy (juices).

Funders included: The Funding Network, Oxfordshire and Voluntary Action, Cllr Bethia Thomas, Oxford County Council, Oxfordshire Community Foundation, Tesco Groundworks, the University of Reading and the Doris Field Charitable Trust.