A NEW initiative is looking to take the cost out of healthy eating for disadvantaged Canberrans.
Launched this month, Communities@Work’s Community Kitchen Project teaches vulnerable individuals and families how to cook nutritious meals on a budget, and provides pre-prepared meals made by a team of volunteers each week using fresh ingredients from the charity’s Yellow Van Food Rescue.
The project, which will run at Tuggeranong and Gungahlin community centres, is combined with Communities@Work’s Care & Share program, a pantry of donated or rescued food available to disadvantaged individuals and families.
Project director Kim Bool says high-protein ingredients such as vegetables, meat and fish are usually too pricey for low-income earners.
“We have about 350 people coming through to the Tuggeranong Centre each week; mostly single mums and dads on low incomes, the homeless, elderly or young people… many of them have never had things like salmon or fish, and they can only afford vegetables once a week,” she says.
“It’s about providing a nutritious, well-balanced meal for people who can’t afford it or teaching them the skills to make it. Many of them say this is the best they’ve ever eaten.”
Volunteer Kerryl Bareja and her team spend about seven hours a week cooking up to 200 meals to be packaged and frozen for people to access from the Tuggeranong Centre five days a week.
“We try and be super inventive, using what ingredients we have – there’s always lots of soups, pastas and salads – and people have said they really enjoy the variety,” Kerryl, of Kambah, says.
“For most of these people, often the cheapest option is fast-food and this (program) is something they are just so thankful for. We ask them to simply take what they need, and they are all very honest, we rarely have people taking advantage.”
Cooking classes are also held once a week, with volunteers teaching basic skills and how to eat healthily on a budget.
“It’s about the social aspect, too; the volunteers and students make it together and sit outside to eat the meal,” Kim says.
“They are then able to take what they need from the pantry and make it at home for their families. To be able to do that, when most of these people haven’t had a decent meal in years, is very special.”
Donate at commsatwork.org/