Edinburgh Food Social is a social enterprise set up by Edinburgh Larder that works with communities and schools in the capital to train and educate as many people as possible in local, healthy and fresh food production, and over the past 3 years, has helped to drastically improve the outcomes for young people from multiple schools across Edinburgh.
Travelling around schools and community centres in the local area in their food truck for more than three years, the project is directed by Eleanor Cunningham of Edinburgh Larder, and has seen involvement from some of the city's best chefs including Fred Berkmiller of L’escargot, who invites many of the children along to his space at the rejuvenated Newton Walled garden.
Eleanor, who owns Larder and founded Edinburgh Food Social said: "The producers in Scotland work incredibly hard to develop really fantastic ingredients which are at the core of everything we cook – we’d like more people to have the opportunity to use these ingredients.”
Now seeking a more permanent home, the EFS is hoping to raise enough money to build one.
Steve Brown who is part of the team that founded the project said that it sprung from a desire to give something back to the community and the realisation that there is a "growing disconnect" between people and food.
He said: "The role of our Food Training Hub will be to re-establish that link between great people and great food, using training and education to inspire them to cook really nutritious meals with local ingredients and inspiring young adults, aiming to give them the skills to get into the hospitality industry."
With over 20 years experience as a chef, and having worked at some of the world's most prestigious restaurants in places like London, Germany and France, Steve explained that he has seen first hand the difference that food security, knowledge and understanding, nutrition and conviviality can have on people’s lives, inspiring him to share his passion for food, skills and experience with as many folk as possible, particularly those who ordinarily wouldn’t have these opportunities.
"To begin with the kids can be a little bit reticent, a little bit unsure, but the more you engage with them the more they open and giving them the practical skills can really have a huge impact on them.
"It builds on their literacy, numeracy and practical cookery skills and applies them in a real-life setting, giving them real confidence to go forward in the hospitality industry.
A professional teacher, thanks to his roles as head tutor at Edinburgh School of Food & Wine and head of The Cookery School at Daylesford Organic, Steve explained that it's also important to show that, though the industry can sometimes be seen as a tough place to work, it's actually a wonderful sector to have a career in.
With the recent skills shortage in hospitality, he hopes the project being able to help inspire local young people to consider a career in the industry.
He said: "In places like France and Italy hospitality is seen as a real career for people and we want to see that in Scotland too. With Ambition 2030 and the growth in tourism we need the people to back that up and we would like to show kids that it is a fantastic career.
"I've been in this industry for 20 years and it has served me so well, I've travelled all over the world and met some incredible people and that's all been through a passion for food.
"Really it's a lifestyle, not a job, and I really feel that if we can inspire these kids into a hospitality role then that would be fantastic."
The latest project from EFS is an ambitious one, but it is one that is hugely important to Steve, who is head of education at the group, he explained: "We want to create a Food Training Hub in Portobello, giving us a central location so that we can welcome people in and also so we can generate revenue for our social enterprise."
To create this exciting Food Training Hub, where they intend to teach young people from disadvantaged backgrounds all about the amazing world of food, developing their passion and opening doors to careers in the hospitality industry, as well as offering a cookery school (the revenue generated from which will feed directly back into the social enterprise) the group have launched a crowdfunding appeal to raise the £20,000 they need.
"The idea is to have that home that can really inspire people, bringing them in to cook meals together, getting them involved in the conviviality of food.
"We'd love to be able to get inner-city kids to come down during the holidays - with holiday hunger a real problem - to cook and eat breakfast together to get them thinking about the social value of that."
As part of the funding drive, the EFS has teamed up with Edinburgh Gin, to create a bespoke gin, a large part of the profits from which will go towards the new project.
Steve added: "We are passionate about local, sustainable, seasonal food and what better way to represent that than with a gin that's been created using local, foraged seasonal botanicals and the team at Edinburgh Gin saw this as a great opportunity to help drive a bit of profile towards the project and get our name out there, and hopefully to create some revenue for the social enterprise."
"All of our gins are going to have a seasonal theme, with the next release being Autumn and see where we go from there. We want each to be unique using seasonal ingredients. Ideally, we would like to have four to represent the four seasons."
Priced at £35 a bottle, approximately half of the profits from each sale will go towards the social enterprise.
If you like the thought of owning a bottle of this special limited edition gin, while at the same time supporting a fantastic social enterprise that will make a real difference to the lives of many young people in Edinburgh, or if you'd simply like to make a donation then head over to the Edinburgh Food Social’s Crowdfunder page to help raise the £20,000 needed to bring this project to life.
• Should you wish to learn more about this project then the EFS food truck will be appearing at the Edinburgh Food Festival in George Square Gardens from the 19th-28th July.