COOKING clubs are being established to equip some of the region's most disadvantaged residents with the knowledge and skills to prepare meals.
The clubs will be especially for emergency food relief recipients.
Six clubs will be established in the next 12 months, the first of which will be based at the Salvation Army Bendigo Corps in Mundy Street.
Bendigo Foodshare chair Cathie Steele said the initiative was in response to a long-standing issue.
She said central Victorian agencies that were distributing food had, for years, encountered clients who didn't know what to do with fresh produce.
For example, clients who were familiar with how to cook chips, but not potatoes.
"We knew there was an issue with skills," Ms Steele said.
"What's the next step? Teach cooking."
Bendigo Foodshare's role was to supply the food. But it saw an opportunity to work with others to help share the knowledge and skills to use fresh produce.
It has partnered with the Bendigo Regional Food Alliance and the Salvation Army to deliver the cooking clubs.
"Our part is to generate more fresh, healthy foods and get it to the cooking clubs," Ms Steele said.
She said produce for the cooking clubs would be harvested from community gardens.
The Gravel Hill Community Garden will be extended to support the program.
Ms Steele said Bendigo Foodshare was also open to any excess produce people might like to donate from their home gardens, if they were growing fruits and vegetables.
"The call for more food is big," she said.
She was hopeful groups already involved in distributing emergency food relief would be among those keen to establish a club.
About 2000 people in our region area already working with food as part of emergency food relief programs, by Ms Steele's estimations.
By training the trainer, she was hopeful the skills could be passed on to many of the 12,400 people a week Bendigo Foodshare helps feed.
"We want more people to get the skills to choose and eat healthy foods," Ms Steele said.
Bendigo Regional Food Alliance has employed a cook manager and a food recovery and partnerships officer for the project.
Grow, Cook, Share was funded by the Department of Premier and Cabinet's competitive Pick My Project initiative.
"This is the next step to helping people improve their health and well-being," Bendigo Regional Food Alliance chair and Greater Bendigo councillor Jennifer Alden said.
Tuesday's launch event was attended by representatives of a number of groups involved in emergency food relief in our region - from schools to government bodies, not-for-profit agencies to food businesses.
Cr Alden said these sorts of projects had positive ripple effects for whole communities.
The project drew inspiration from the success of Let's Get Cooking in the UK, and the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Gardens program and activities in Heathcote.
Speakers involved in both programs addressed attendees at the launch event.
"I think you've got something really, really special here - you can make it happen," Rob Rees, of Let's Get Cooking, said.
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