A project in East Porirua gives parents the skills to feed their families nutritious and affordable food, with a fair helping of social engagement on the side.
WELLfed puts on free, interactive cooking classes, with a big focus on fresh and seasonal ingredients.
It's the brainchild of Kim Murray and Becs Morahan, and it's been running for over two years. In the first year alone more than 200 meals were taught, cooked, and taken home to share with families, after more than 800 hours of teaching and learning.
One of the students, Maree says she was keen to get out of the house and engaging with new people. She’s got five kids, aged 6, 2, 12, 17 and 18 – the young ones especially like it.
“I was a good cook, but I had lost all of my resources,” she says.
Every day the students cook one savoury and one sweet dish. When things wrap up they all share the sweet dish, taking the savoury one home for the family. They’re also left with a big recipe book that they continually add to.
“Learning different things like chickpeas and lentils and how to actually eat them, we learn those types of things.”
Maree says the students have access to a website where they can share when they find food specials at the supermarket – making it easier on the budget.
Maree’s favourite recipes are chicken curry and garlic naan, ANZAC biscuits and chocolate and banana muffins.
And her kids love to help make the naan.
“When I first joined the thing I enjoyed the most was getting out of the house and getting confidence and since doing WELLfed I’ve enjoyed cooking and I went on to Whitirea Polytech and completed Level 4 cookery so now I want to get a food truck and get my own business in cooking.
“It’s woken me up.”
Maree now also gives back to the community and volunteers with WELLfed.
Becs Morahan says she and Kim are good friends and they’d volunteered a lot in Porirua East.
“We kept meeting some beautiful people who just asked to learn how to cook using seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables, at a cost that would actually work – so all our recipes are under $10 and have been checked by a dietician.”
They started off thinking it would be one or two classes, but the community were really excited by the project and the local decide 1 schools welcomed them in.
One of the key things about the recipes that are part of the programme are that the kids will eat them.
They’re also re-written from scratch, simplified for numeracy and literacy and able to be done with kids at home.
“That’s the ripple, we teach a key person within a household, the parent generally, the mum most often, some dads as well and not only are they remodelling this beautiful cooking and eating well and feeling well, they’re making friends with others.”
The other thing she says they learnt when designing the programme was that they needed to equip people at home, so they give out good quality second-hand equipment that enables them to cook at home.
“If we’re just dumping skills and a bit of education on somebody, but not giving them the full picture of what they need to succeed, that’s not fair, that’s not helped that person in any way.”
The project is so successful they’ve now even taken on a lease of a building in Porirua East with dreams to create a community garden down the side.