Cosimo’s story: Covid-19 transformed how we work with social responsibility

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the nature of our company’s efforts in the communities around us. Hear more first-hand from Cosimo Scarano, Training Program Coordinator for the Electrolux Food Foundation.

An Italian living in São Paulo, Brazil, Cosimo is responsible for the foundation’s Like a Chef training programs around the world.  Launched in 2017, the original eight-week course equips unemployed and disadvantaged individuals with culinary workplace skills and focuses on sustainable cooking.

Having also coordinated the emergency response efforts over the past 12 months, Cosimo tells us how the short-term goals of the foundation had to shift quickly in response to the pandemic.  And he shares the tricky task of transforming training and education to online, remote-friendly formats.

Here is Cosimo’s story:

“When news of the pandemic started to spread, it caught us off guard. What did that mean for my job? All our physical projects had to stop.

We lived in the hope it would be possible to resume them quickly to keep training and educating people around the world in sustainable cooking and eating.

We had already made great strides with Food Heroes – teaching over 30,000 kids in 2019 and Like a Chef had spread to 6 countries and 8 locations, with 276 graduates of the program worldwide.

Facing the “new normal” reality

But it soon became clear that it just wouldn’t be possible. At the same time, the pandemic surged a demand on the foundation to support meal donations and emergency aid to people most severely affected.

We made our budget more flexible to dedicate important resources to crucial emergency relief initiatives globally. Both through Red Cross disaster relief and local initiatives.

By the end of 2020, we had supported around 30 initiatives in 20 different countries, and to date our efforts have resulted in around 900,000 meals donated to people in need.

We also redesigned our traditional programs and adapted them to the new reality. Our Like A Chef audience were not very used – or not yet used – to this new way of learning. But like all of us, they pick it up.

All in all, adapting our programs has allowed us to confidently plan our strategy for 2021 and put our trajectory back on track.

Diversifying our culinary training

Personally, I was proud of the work we put into transforming the Like A Chef program from a complete face-to-face course into a blended learning model.

The curriculum was developed to cover one week of practice in the kitchen and three weeks of online workshops. There’s an additional objective to train a new generation of food entrepreneurs, able to launch their new businesses with the added value of sustainability awareness.

Additionally, in the year Electrolux launched its global Diversity & Inclusion program, Like A Chef became an action of our Latin America Diversity Subcommittee for Sexual Orientation. Today 25% of the places in Curitiba are reserved for members of the LGBT+ community, which contributes to the creation of beautiful stories.

The pandemic has challenged the way we have worked for years, perhaps even for the better. But there is no way to thank it; no way to celebrate an event that is still causing so much suffering worldwide.

In fact, the dream of those like me, who work in the field of social responsibility, is to live in a world where no one needs this kind of support to survive.”