For the past year, Bristol WEA has been working with FareShare (a nationwide organisation working to reduce food waste and feed countless individuals around the country) on a brilliant project to provide free education and much-needed groceries for learners around the Bristol area, especially during the cost of living crisis.

Each week, WEA has been picking up surplus food donations from FareShare's warehouses, as well as food that would otherwise be 'wasted' from various local Tesco stores. Collections usually include the likes of croissants and sandwiches as well as staples such as rice, pasta, bread, sauces, fruit and vegetables, canned goods, milk and oats. This food is then taken back to WEA's offices to provide snacks and meals for learners and to stock the 'WEA Bristol Free Food Shop'; a DIY supermarket used for WEA's ESOL (English as a second language) courses and Multiply (maths) program.

WEA Educational Coordinator Anita notes that learners come through a number of different avenues, ranging from "Bristol Bristol Refugee Rights, Ways to work, MIND mental health charity to word of mouth and tutors promoting to their learners from other classes". This market scenario allows learners to role play real-life scenarios, helping them to grow their maths skills and become more money-savvy, and to improve their everyday English speaking skills and gain confidence in navigating the weekly food shop. Anita explains the collaborative work by everyone involved in the project: "We use a spare small side office or classroom. The learners price and organise stock, the tutors organise activities."

WEA Bristol free food shop

By using FareShare and the WEA Bristol Free Food Shop, WEA has been able to provide support towards the cost of living crisis and integrate green social prescribing and circular economy principles into the curriculum. As well as using the Free Food Shop as customers, learners also have the responsibility of running the shop. Learner Gulshan describes how...

"It teaches you how to work in shops and handling money and realising how to give the change back. I struggled sometimes."

A massive well done to all the learners, tutors and staff at WEA Bristol for this brilliant project! If you're interested in growing your functional maths skills you can find our free maths courses here.

If you would like to improve your English skills, or know someone who would benefit from a course, see here for our free ESOL courses.

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About the author

Kay Field

Digital Marketing Officer

Kay is the Digital Marketing Officer at the WEA.