Made in Hackney
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Published On: November 4, 2017

From Chicken Shops To Chickpeas

By Made In Hackney founder Sarah Bentley

“I always thought organic was overpriced dirty veg for posh people. Now I understand what it’s all about and how to source it affordably. It’s been a revelation.”

This classic comment came from Maureen, an Irish pensioner attending our first ever Seed To Plate cookery course at Made In Hackney. Starting with a food growing session then moving into the kitchen for five weeks of cooking, the course aimed to inspire people to connect with their food from farm to fork and give food growing and cookery skills to keep them healthy and well for life.

It certainly did the job for Maureen, she joined a local organic veg box scheme shortly after and is still in touch with us today telling us what recipes she’s cooked from our newsletter this month.

Since I founded Made In Hackney five years ago, we have helped over 6000 Londoners lead healthier happier lives. We’ve worked with a staggering range of people from low income families and recovering addicts, visual and hearing impaired groups, young people leaving care, parents and children and gypsy and traveller youth groups.

Our kitchen – and indeed all the venues we work in – is an inspiring, fun space were people come to learn how to cook healthy affordable food without any judgement about what they’re currently eating. Our class themes, rather than labour the healthy part, aim to solve hurdles commonly associated with eating well so we run classes such as Fifteen Minute Meals, There’s More To Life Than Sandwiches and Feed Four For £3s.

We’re super passionate about organic and for our Hackney classes source our produce from the much lauded Growing Communities veg box scheme – the most affordable source of organic in the borough by far. They also take Healthy Start vouchers and offer pensioner discounts which we’re proud to promote. Of course for our Feed 4 For £3s class we have to make concessions – but we still ensure we inform people about organic food and its benefits. 

What’s also unique about kitchen is that all our meals are 100% plant-based. Yes that’s right, shock horror, vegan. We do this as we aim to normalise what a nutritious, tasty plant-based meal looks and tastes like and let’s face it the last thing any cookery school needs to be teaching is how people can all eat more meat and dairy. We’re doing far too much of that as a species already.

Some of the people that attend our classes are self-confessed chicken shop addicts – so how on earth to they get on with all our veggies, grains, pulses and seeds? Well at first it can be challenging – but with the right attitude from the teacher, a lot of laughs and jokes and some undeniably banging tasting dishes – we win most people round.

Ian said after attending a six-week International Cuisine course with us. “I only signed up to your programme to impress a girl I wanted to cook for. I was going down the chicken shop about three times a week but I finished your programme a month ago and I haven’t been once. I’m a changed man. I even bought a packet of chickpeas the other day. What have you done to me?” Impressive right?

We’re now crowdfunding to raise £85,000 by November 28th. This money will be used to secure our future for the next 5 years and empower us to work with 10,000 people during this time.

We’ve got some amazing rewards lined up for donors such as foraging walks, cookery classes, hotel stays and food hampers.

To make a donation and support our work visit

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