Published 16/02/2023

The Larder, based in West Lothian, is a social enterprise dedicated to providing learning and community development opportunities for local people. The Larder is calling for a Scotland without poverty, where everyone has the opportunity to achieve their full potential and the right to food is enshrined in Scottish law.

Angela discusses the work of The Larder and how it supports the wider community.

Angela Moohan, CEO, The Larder

Angela Moohan, CEO, The Larder. © The Larder

Tell us about how you started The Larder

Before starting The Larder, I worked for another social enterprise which made good headway in moving people off state benefits and into work through volunteering opportunities.

When that social enterprise closed, I didn't want to lose the momentum that had been achieved, so with some colleagues, I started The Larder in 2010 when youth unemployment was at 21 per cent and rising in West Lothian which, at the time, was the third highest figure in Scotland.

In the previous business, we had started to develop an idea to set up a cookery school for the community and that is something me and the team were passionate about driving forward. We knew that we could use food as a way to engage and support some of the most disadvantaged young people.

We started by providing cookery courses free of charge with the aim of building their skills and employability for the hospitality sector. In 2014 we established The Larder's training kitchen and implemented courses to cover professional cookery, food hygiene and health and safety in the kitchen amongst other things, to ensure the best possible platform for employment.

Covid and Brexit have both had a significant impact across all industries, particularly the hospitality sector. Can you tell us about some of the challenges you have been facing?

Both Covid and Brexit have brought a multitude of challenges to not only our sector, but to many. The biggest impact, which is being felt globally, is attracting and hiring skilled staff.

Since 2020, unemployment has changed dramatically with more than 3,000 people economically inactive, for a variety of reasons. Across the hospitality sector, we have witnessed a dramatic drop in the number of people employed across all age groups.

From what we have seen, there are a number of younger people who are experiencing mental health issues and feeling far less confident about going to university and seeking employment. On the other side of the spectrum, we have seen that the older generation are feeling underconfident due to the introduction of new technology in the workplace, particularly in a hospitality setting where they now need to be able to use, for example, electronic tills and iPads.

I think as an industry, it is something we need to address and work collaboratively on. How can we tackle this issue and get people in to work? I'd like to see more organisations employing those who have additional support needs or little knowledge of the sector and educating and training them to a high level. Whilst it takes more time it is far more rewarding and starts to close the employment gap.

We need to ask ourselves what kind of society we want. Do we want to live in a society where people with additional support needs are limited to the number of employment opportunities available to them or do we create a more caring and compassionate society full of understanding employers that are willing to commit and nurture them as they learn more about the sector?

I personally think that if more employers took that chance, they would find that their workforce would be more reliable and committed.

Catalyst Kitchen The Larder

Food insecurity project, Catalyst Kitchen student's volunteering team. © The Larder

How can Scotland's hotels and venues work with you?

We invite employers to come to The Larder to talk to young people, focusing on a day in the life of their business so that they can understand a real-life working environment. We also like to do site visits so that people can see the workplace in action and have a taster of a working day in hospitality. We are keen to speak to employers that want to grow their own talent as we can support them this that.

We've built some excellent relationships with some smaller hotels across West Lothian and are discussing how we can work closer together and the opportunities available for young people looking to get into work.

Some organisations we work with include Compass Catering, SITE, Toby Carvery, Dalmahoy Hotel and APEX Hotels.

The Dalmahoy Hotel employed one of our trainees, who is on the autistic spectrum. It wasn't until the hotel took this person on that management recognised that they needed some additional guidance on how to fully support them in the workplace. They reached back out to us and asked us to design a training programme so that they could understand the additional support required and educate the wider team.

Students in training The Larder

Progressions Coordinator, Heather Reid with students in training. © The Larder

And how can event planners work with yourselves?

Similar to the work we do with organisations, event planners can come into The Larder to talk to our young people as well as the opportunities for them to do group volunteering and fundraising.

Alternatively, planners can choose The Larder as their charity of the year, which provides us with long-term support and gets our name to a wider pool of people.

Event planners can use us to cater their event, whether it is a small meeting or an exhibition. We have experience of catering for larger groups, in 2018 we catered for The world Social Enterprise Forum in Edinburgh which had hundreds of attendees. It was an excellent platform to give young people an opportunity to gain experience throughout the entire process from the start of the event through to serving the food on the day. We currently supply the catering for Edinburgh Airport and their partners as well as more local companies and individuals.  We regularly cater for small family gatherings to corporate events with over 200 people in attendance.

What is next for The Larder?

We recently launched a bakery in Livingston, making it the first independent artisan bakery in the area, and want to develop this and provide more employment opportunities for local people.

We are also completely dedicated to campaigning for food to be included in Scots Law as a Human Right. We believe that there was a real missed opportunity by The Scottish Government in the Good Food Nation Bill in 2022 but are hopeful that they will take the steps through the Scottish Human Rights Bill, which is currently going through the Scottish Parliament. Everyone has the right to eat and to eat good food and we will continue to campaign for this.

To learn more about The Larder visit -