Free to feed (FTF) is Melbourne’s first pop-up cooking school with all classes run by refugees and people seeking asylum.
Free to feed (FTF) is Melbourne’s first pop-up cooking school with all classes run by refugees and people seeking asylum. FTF gives training, mentoring and support to refugees and people seeking asylum with fantastic cooking skills, enabling them to thrive in this unique role and their future careers. The company is a one-stop shop for individuals to get their foot in the door of whatever career they choose, by breaking their isolation and building networks, as well as supporting them to develop their communication and other job-ready skills and experiences.
Cooking classes are a lot of fun… for participants and instructors! People from the Melbourne community get to learn new skills, and eat delicious food, all whilst making a meaningful contribution to their instructor’s life.
Loretta Bolotin and her husband, Daniel founded the organisation in 2015. FTF employs people seeking asylum or refugees from all cultural groups, regardless of gender and age. All instructors must have work rights, have arrived to Australia within the last 5 years, have a high level of spoken English and be excellent cooks. FTF currently employ 6 chefs with hundreds of students.
Loretta believes that many people seeking asylum and refugees find starting a new life in Australia isolating, making it incredibly challenging to secure meaningful employment. These challenges can compound to produce quite disheartening circumstances.
Free to Feed is designed to provide training and meaningful employment to refugees and people seeking asylum as well as to giving them an opportunity to break down isolation and connect with the wider community, and vice versa.
Free to Feed run multiple cooking classes per week in people’s homes, cafes after hours and workplaces, and will be starting engagement in schools soon.
Anyone can join a cooking class or host one in their home, workplace or school.
FTF partners with a number of referring organisations, who assist the project to identify and recruit eligible people seeking asylum and refugees for roles within the project.
The initiative is self-funded through ticket sales from the cooking classes.
FTF have provided meaningful employment to their first cohort of 5 people seeking asylum and 1 refugee, and are now delivering successful cooking classes regularly. Over 300 people from the community have come to classes and experienced a unique opportunity to engage with instructors, learn their cuisine and share experiences.
The project successfully empowers our instructors by giving them leadership roles. They are proud of sharing their traditional cuisine with the wider community, and have amazing opportunities to build friendships and connections. People from the community also get to form personal connections with people seeking asylum and refugees.
The project survives on ticket sales to our cooking classes. FTF have been fortunate so far with a great response from the community and many classes selling out. However, they are very conscious of the need to ensure the ongoing sustainability of the project, so a major challenge is to continuously find innovative ways of reaching people in the community, and encouraging them to come along to classes
The imitative uses as many avenues as possible to raise awareness of the project, from social media to handing out postcards at farmers’ markets.
Advice for others
Those looking to set up a similar program need to be strategic in how to obtain funding to cover the costs, as well as ensure there is a large group of volunteers available to meet the demand of the program.