We have recently reflected on our projects to date, and refocussed our mission. Our unique skills lie in teaching practical skills to people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds, and we want to use this to make as much social impact as possible. We have a number or exciting projects including new partnerships with the ‘Going the Extra Mile’ project in Gloucestershire, and Age UK Gloucestershire, as well as continuing our ‘Kitchen Challenge’ training course and our ‘No Person Hungry’ campaign.
After a fantastic 5-year partnership with National Star working together to run the StarBistros, it was decided to hand the project over to National Star to continue the full leadership of the project. In the summer, we completed the handover of the StarBistros after successfully setting up the restaurants and developing them into a thriving social enterprise model. We moved our HQ office into the heart of the community over in Springbank, Cheltenham, and since then have been having loads of conversations with other voluntary and community organisations to see where Wiggly can add value to other projects and initiatives.
2015 – A television production company, Two Four, approached Wiggly Worm to deliver our Kitchen Challenge training programme alongside world renowned chef Michel Roux Jnr, to train 8 young people with disabilities wanting to get jobs in the catering industry. Kitchen Impossible was aired in the Autumn.
Our founder, Rob Rees MBE DL, made the exciting decision for him and his family to emigrate to Melbourne, Australia to develop similar project work using food to help people on the other side of the world. We strengthened our Board of Trustees and the Operations Director, Abby, stepped in to the MD role, to continue to get more people to do better across Gloucestershire, using food as the tool.
2014 – Alongside the food poverty crisis, the food industry was throwing away tonnes of surplus food as waste daily. We worked with local companies including Creed Foodservice to take fresh surplus food and upcycle it into nutritious meals for our No Child Hungry programme.
The StarBistro was continuing to succeed, and we opened another in Cheltenham - StarBistro at Royal Crescent - after a local business kindly gifted the goodwill of a café in Cheltenham, ‘Pepper Crescent’, to the StarBistro partnership. The Wiggly Worm delivery team grew to 21 employees working across the StarBistros and community food projects.
Our goal was to tackle food poverty in Gloucestershire. We found an awesome 1967 Citroen H van in France which was lovingly restored and converted into our famous Little Green Wiggly Machine, which served delicious street food in Cirencester in the day, with proceeds funding ‘community pop-ups’ which served hot, nutritious meals to those needing it most locally. This led to the launch of our No Child Hungry campaign, working with local businesses who sponsored the cause to ensure children living in food poverty had access to a hot meal during the long school holidays.
2011 – From working with a wide range of people facing disadvantage in their lives, there was a real need to provide a route into employment for people, particularly those with disabilities. We teamed up with the National Star at Ullenwood, working in partnership to create a social enterprise model, providing a real-life working environment for young people with disabilities and learning difficulties to gain the skills required for employment, whilst serving local, ethical, and sustainable food. The StarBistro was born, and went on to achieve numerous local and national accolades and awards in its first years, with the Wiggly Worm team training hundreds of students and scholars behind the scenes.
The Wiggly Worm HQ moved to the Food Centre at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, with an industrial kitchen based which would be used to deliver more Kitchen Challenge courses for people with disabilities, mental health conditions, and other long term unemployed people in Gloucestershire.
2007-2009 – The charity was based in an office in Stroud, where Rob and a small team worked on a range of healthy eating projects with children across schools in Gloucestershire. The ‘Kitchen Challenge’ project was also born, originally working with disengaged 14-15 year olds, then with ex-offenders and adults with acquired brain injuries.
Our founder, Rob Rees MBE DL, set up the Wiggly Worm charity to promote the awareness and education of cooking, food skills and nutrition to promote public health. The name came from Rob’s son Jack, who loved food and referred to the famous children’s book ‘The Hungry Caterpillar’ as the ‘The Wiggly Worm’. The name sets the scene for learning about the journey of our food from ‘farm to fork’ and in the early days, projects focussed on teaching cooking skills to children.