A life-changing initiative from The Footprints Project that helps former prisoners learn to both grow and cook their own food will be expanded to help more people thanks to a grant from the National Lottery.

Our Grow and Cook scheme at The Grange Approved Premises in Hampshire will teach the all-male residents how to plant and grow their own vegetables, herbs and fruit from seed. It will also provide weekly cookery classes for residents, teaching them low-cost, nutritious recipes and meals that can be shared by other residents and staff. 

People on the scheme, who have all served long-term sentences, will also be able to take NVQ qualifications in horticulture and food hygiene, helping them to find meaningful paid work when they are released.

Footprints Project CEO Caroline Stevens said: ‘Growth and nourishment— this scheme reflects perfectly what The Footprints Project is all about and we are thrilled to be able to continue expanding the work we do with residents at The Grange, thanks to this grant from the National Lottery. 

Men who have served long-term prison sentences can find themselves socially isolated, with few life skills and no clear pathway to employment. This wonderful scheme, already a successful pilot project at The Grange, helps to address these issues positively and practically, helping residents move on to brighter futures, and creating safer communities for everyone.’

The National Lottery has awarded The Footprints Project £19, 212. The money will be used to buy new materials, equipment and expertise. As well as cultivating four allotments and cooking meals for residents and staff at The Grange, people taking part in Grow and Cook will also be able to sell their produce, such as homemade pickles and jams, at local food markets, including the Winchester Christmas Market. 

The scheme follows a successful pilot scheme at The Grange last year. Footprints Project mentors realised that many of The Grange’s residents had never cooked from scratch; one person had never even cut an onion. Residents were existing on unhealthy and expensive takeaways, mainly due to a lack of skills and knowledge about cookery and nutrition. The pilot scheme helped eight residents to achieve qualifications with around half of them also returning to employment following their release. 

Caroline said: ‘By giving people two routes to employment and long-term skills we are giving them a greater chance of a successful resettlement upon their release. Many of the men we work with at The Grange are a long way from home and lack any positive influences. Due to the nature of the site at The Grange, and with curfews and restrictions, they have very few opportunities to gain support or interact with the community. This impacts their mental health and reintegration. Grow and Cook will smash through these barriers, get people back into work,  develop new skills and make our communities safer, happier places to be.’