Mary cooks up a storm

editorial image

A Barrhead resident has set her sights on a cooking career after being supported by East Renfrewshire Council to pursue her passion.

Mary Leonard has gone from a novice cook to providing training in the community in just three years, and has now been recognised for her amazing journey.

The mum-of-one has become the first person in East Renfrewshire to be honoured with a Community Achievement Award from Glasgow Kelvin College, which is designed to recognise and accredit learning and achievement in a community setting.

The journey began when Mary, a former Board Member at Auchenback Resource Centre (ARC), decided to join the local Eat Better Feel Better Group with the aim of losing weight and learning to cook healthily on a budget.

Having lost nearly one stone in the first 10 weeks of attending the course, it sparked an interest and Mary decided to take her love for cooking to the next stage.

Community group Auchenback Active applied for a grant which allowed Mary to obtain her cooking skills and knife skills certification.

Following a period volunteering in the ARC kitchen, Mary was then supported by the Council’s Communities Team to design and deliver a four-week cooking programme to local parents and children.

This was part of the Council’s locality planning process and the Auchenback Climate Challenge programme, which gives community members the opportunity to learn how to grow their own food and reduce their food waste whilst cooking healthier for their family.

Mary then assisted a Community Chef in The ARC to deliver a six-week, Eat Better Feel Better programme before working with Young Enterprise Scotland to set up a six-week cooking and homework club in Hillview Primary. The cooking element of the programme was solely planned and led by Mary and helped her to achieve her Community Achievement Award at SCQF Level 5.

Mary said: “I learned a lot from the cooking programme, I am more confident and able to plan and deliver a cooking class – something that I did not think I would be able to do. By continuing with the cooking programme, I can work towards an HND which will give me access to college and hopefully find a job doing something that I love.”

Mary plans to continue volunteering and delivering cooking programmes to more local primary schools in the future, working with Parent Councils to cascade her knowledge and skills to more families within the community.

Councillor Colm Merrick, Convener for Community Services and Community Safety, said: “Mary has been on an incredible journey over the past three years, achieving not only her personal goals but also making a difference in her local community. Mary has been involved in actively delivering programmes which support and promote health and wellbeing in her community whilst enhancing her own skills and increasing her chances of securing a place in further education in the future. Well done for everything that’s already been achieved and I look forward to seeing your journey progress in the future.”

If you are interested in getting involved in your community or want to find out more about Community Achievement Awards please contact Kellie Miller, East Renfrewshire Council Senior Community Worker on 0141 577 4648 for more information.