Katoomba families gain cooking confidence thanks to Co-op

eNews: 1 March 2018

The Blue Mountains Food Co-operative has been supporting and empowering the community to eat well and live healthily and sustainably in Katoomba, NSW for almost 50 years – well before it was trendy!

They have a shop in which they sell fresh and bulk whole foods, seeds, and ecofriendly products, give 10% of their surplus to support local not for profit food and social justice related programs each year, and engaging with community through education programs (Wellness Wednesday, Mending Mondays), and outreach programs at the North Katoomba Community Hub and Katoomba Community Gardens.

The co-op is always looking for new ways to get people excited about health and wellbeing, and it’s no secret that the low intake of fruit and vegetables and high intake of fast food and processed snack foods is a major public health concern in Australia.

Establishing good eating habits in families with young children is crucial as a poor diet in children can increase disease and obesity, and impact negatively on physical development and cognitive functioning. Socio economic factors can be a big factor in the quality of a child’s diet; ‘Nourishing Families’ was devised as a program to support families with young children in the North Katoomba, the Blue Mountains LGA with the greatest level of disadvantage, to establish healthy eating patterns to improve their long term health and wellbeing. The five session pilot program of cooking workshops for parents and carers of children 0-5 years was run in 2017, building knowledge, skills and confidence for families to make nutritious food for from affordable seasonal ingredients, with the added benefit of social connection and conversations about food through a fun shared activity.

The program was supported with a $2,100 Small Grant thanks to Scenic World Blue Mountains, and run at the North Katoomba Community Hub Play and Chat playgroup. The program was flexible to the responses and needs of the group and gathered feedback and input from the participants pre and post program, both formally via surveys and informally through conversation. Families learnt how to make delicious and healthy family meals for the first few sessions and then focussed on cooking skills that were requested by the group, including making sauerkraut and muesli bars.

Gaining confidence in the kitchen is a great outcome, meaning these families will be willing to try new things, new flavours, and find ways to reduce food waste.

“I have enjoyed learning about new ways to cook and trying a cooking technique (fermenting) that I hadn’t been brave enough to try before.”

“All the new ingredients and flavours that I’m not normally brave enough to buy.”

“I actually went home and used some of the ideas.”

“Great way to use up the dead and dying veggies” (re fried rice recipe)

Whats more, a kitchen garden project at the hub also grew out of the pilot. It was established in November 2017 and has some great crops growing. You can read more about it here.

Having established that the model achieves its aims on a small scale, the co-op plans to deliver the program for a full year to achieve a larger and more long lasting impact for families with young children in North Katoomba. The program will form a basis for a collection of recipes and health information that can be an ongoing resource for Play and Chat families and their networks.