Shopping, cooking and eating in Australia

HELPP participant Mary Kounavelis (left) with Lynn Field
HELPP participant Mary Kounavelis (left) with Lynn Field

Move over MasterChef – a group of migrant women is cooking up a storm of their own thanks to a food literacy program being run by Flinders University’s Healthy Eating Local Policies and Programs (HELPP) project.

Every week for the past month about a dozen women from places such as North Africa, Indonesia and the Middle East have been meeting at the Cheltenham Community Centre to learn the ins and outs of food shopping, cooking and eating in Australia.

The weekly workshops have involved cooking demonstrations, group discussions and learning exercises on how to make healthier food choices, read and understand food labels, learn different cooking methods and understand how to safely prepare and store food.

The workshops, which have also run at Kilburn Community Centre, are part of a pilot project developed by HELPP, part of Flinders University’s Nutrition and Dietetics Department, to provide food literacy support to people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

While the two western suburbs workshops ended last month, project officer Ms Lynn Field said the program would soon be available on the Flinders website and through Community Centres SA so that community groups across the state could convene their own sessions.

“Cheltenham and Kilburn were trials for the program – the next step is to make the program accessible online and through Community Centres SA which will enable various other groups to run their own workshops,” Ms Field said.

“It’s a wonderful support network for these women, some have only recently arrived in this country so it gives them an opportunity to learn new skills and make friends at the same time.”

Coming from different cultural backgrounds, Ms Field said the program helped participants to not only understand the Australian way of life but develop their English language skills.

“Many of the women have only been in Australia for a few months and their literacy levels are quite poor so by educating them on how to read labels, for example, they in turn gain English skills.

“The other thing we’ve tried to do is to help them understand the shelf life of food, a lot of these women were shopping daily for their food but over here food shopping can be limited to once a week or fortnight so it’s important that they understand how long their fruit and vegetables will last, and how long milk and meat can be stored for safely.”

Program participant Nina Gomes said she enjoyed learning to cook healthy recipes through the Cheltenham workshop.

“You learn something from different countries and it’s much better to watch someone making a meal rather than rely on a cookbook,” she said.

The Cheltenham and Kilburn workshops have been held in partnership with the Muslim Women’s Association of SA, which holds various support groups at the centres, and funded through the City of Charles Sturt and Port Adelaide Enfield’s Obesity Prevention and Lifestyle (OPAL) program.

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