BENDIGO Foodshare has celebrated one year of a program that has taught dozens of people how to use fresh produce.
The Grow, Cook, Share program established six cooking clubs, designed to help participants learn to prepare simple, healthy meals using seasonal produce.
The program also redeveloped the Salvation Army's Gravel Hill Garden to increase its capacity to grow fresh produce for food relief.
Cooking club coordinator Ingrid Phyland said participants' confidence in the kitchen went up during the classes, as did their enjoyment.
Ms Phyland said the classes were a way people could learn to improve their nutrition and give themselves some self-care.
The clubs ran as a four session cooking program through various agencies, using food from Bendigo Foodshare. Most participants were adults, but teenagers took part in one club.
Each session was run under one of four themes: reducing food waste, cooking seasonally, budgeting and nutrition.
The groups all cooked for a community meal.
"Most people who came, came back. So they enjoyed the social element of cooking together, even though people found it quite daunting sometimes coming to the first one," Ms Phyland said.
"People - particularly people relying on emergency relief - can sometimes fall back on the two minute noodles, or just the bread, or the foods that are going to fill their stomachs and skip the vegetables."
Bendigo Regional Food Alliance chair Jennifer Alden said the program brought another layer of skill to organisations already providing emergency food relief.
Councillor Alden said helping people understand growing, and have the skills to know use fresh produce, was the project's broad objective.
She said agencies could improve the quality of food that people accessed - and its nutritional value - by using a produce and cooking centred food support program, such as Grow, Cook Share.
"Sometimes the older style of emergency food relief didn't have as much access to fresh, local, seasonal produce," Cr Alden said.
"We know that the nutritional content of fresh produce when it's in season is very high. The stumbling block can be for people to understand quite what to do."
To find out more, visit: bendigofoodshare.org.au/grow_cook_share/
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