Nicky is a support worker for Food for Change – our community programme helping people to increase their confidence, learn new skills and find work through a variety of food-based activities.
It’s her job to provide one-to-one tailored support to help people navigate their way through the programme, develop personally, to address any problems they may have that prevent them from finding employment or training, prepare for their future and make the most of the Food for Change opportunities on offer, all the way until they move on to employment or education.
This includes identifying goals, choosing suitable activities, preparing people for new experiences and situations, accompanying them to different events and activities as well as addressing barriers to achieving goals. This might mean focusing on self-advocacy – supporting people to learn about their rights in the workplace, speak out for themselves and handle difficult situations.
Nicky will also advocate for people if they need it and she often supports people’s wellbeing by providing emotional support, raising their confidence levels and self-esteem.
My work is very much tailored to individual needs and varies from person to person. However, I always support people to reflect on what’s happening in their lives, how they feel and how this is helping or impacting on their goals.
There is no such thing as a normal day. I spend most of my time out and about meeting people, visiting community groups to promote the programme, visiting potential places of employment and attending events like college open days, as well as having one-to-one catch ups with participants.
I meet people wherever they feel comfortable and do my best to help them feel relaxed. Depending on an individual’s health needs and requirements, I’ll meet them at home or at coffee shops. I drink a lot of coffee in this job – I’ve had to switch to decaf!
When people join Food for Change, they can be at a challenging place in their life, whether that’s through health, housing issues or lack of income. It’s very important for them to get to a stable place and to build resilience. In working with people one-to-one, I try to help them find the confidence to know their own worth – which is an important skill when looking for work and applying for roles.
Lots of people on the programme have had negative experiences in the past when it comes to employment, and this really impacts on their confidence and self-esteem. I can support people to be aware of their entitlements and support them to build the confidence to raise any issues that arise.
I also support people by referring them to other services and agencies that might be useful, including GP surgeries, advice lines, mental health services like Outlook South West, occupational therapists, community groups, housing services, local MPs and the job centre.
If needed, I’ll also come to appointments, to make sure that people get all of the information they need and successfully engage with the service.
I was a social worker for 11 years, working in a range of areas, covering everything from adult social care to palliative care, youth offending. I’ve also worked as an advocate for people with learning disabilities and supported adopted children and their families.
I even used to run my own street food business – making pancakes – so Food for Change has helped to bring together her love of people with her love of food
Nicky said: “I’m really passionate about good food and even more passionate about working with people, so this job seemed like a perfect combination. I feel very privileged to have this job.”
Being a support worker basically means being a personal cheerleader. I value and respect every person I work with and feel it’s so important to stay positive and offer lots of encouragement. My favourite part of this job is meeting new people and empowering them to help them realise their potential. I’m in a really fortunate position to be able to be alongside people on their journey and see them develop and achieve their goals.
As well as providing focus and looking at the next steps, I help to ensure that people recognise their success – it’s so lovely when you’re celebrating achievements together.
I’m really proud of everyone I work with. Each individual on Food for Change is at a different stage of their life, and their achievements may look very different from person to person, but everyone works so hard to make meaningful change in their lives – it’s just so inspiring.
One of the main strengths of Food for Change is that it has so much flexibility for each individual. By approaching things through a food-based perspective, there are some amazing benefits. Food is a very powerful way of bringing people together on the same level. It’s something that’s really special about the programme – people feel equal and everyone has respect for each other.
All participants feel valued and part of a community, which is really beneficial – it’s something that’s quite unique in programmes that help people into work. It’s so lovely to see friendships and connections develop.
All of the activities are delivered with such care and heart. Everyone – from the staff to the volunteers – are so lovely and caring. Every partner offers something interesting and different and for people who have personal challenges, it’s great to have so much choice and an equality of opportunities for all.
Taking part in Food for Change is a really positive, empowering experience and I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a new challenge. It’s not necessary to want to work in food, but it’s a great gateway into work and a perfect opportunity to learn new skills. Even if people are confident about growing and cooking food, there is so much potential to benefit.
I’m a real foodie, but I’ve definitely learnt new things while working with Food for Change. My ability to cook lentil dahl is now at the next level, thanks to a recipe from the Community Food Team and I’ve even learnt more about mindful eating too.
Food for Change has also helped me to build on my strength of thinking outside the box in terms of supporting the people I work with. I’ve supported people to discover skills and careers that they might not have ever thought of before.
Nicky works for Transformation Cornwall, one of Food for Change’s programme partners that focuses on strengthening faith-based social action in Cornwall, encouraging and supporting projects to flourish in local communities.
Transformation Cornwall has been involved in the project since the very beginning when their then Chair, Bishop Tim Thornton helped to lead on the Feeding Britain report into food poverty in 2014.
Are you interested in joining Food for Change? Fill in the form below and register your interest today.