Multicultural cooks educate food-relief agencies after COVID struggles

Cooks and food

Culturally and linguistically diverse women are working to educate food relief agencies about traditional cooking.

During Shepparton’s COVID outbreak in September, many CALD families threw out food relief packs, or gave them away.

Food relief deliveries often contain western foods that CALD community members can struggle to use in traditional cooking.


During Shepparton’s COVID lockdowns, food relief only brought added stress to Zahraa Taher’s community. “The problem was that the food wasn’t what they’d usually eat,” the Afghan community health educator said. “Some people were unsure which ingredients were halal and which were not.

“Some just threw the food in the rubbish, while others gave it to their neighbours.”

Ms Taher said it got to the point where some families, while desperate, refused any offers of help, finding the food too Western to use.

 

multicultural food
Afghan community health educator Zahraa Taher (centre) gives a presentation.(Supplied)

CALD communities struggle with food relief

Shepparton’s Afghan community is just one of many that struggled to access culturally sensitive and appropriate food while in isolation this year.

In September, thousands of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) community members were locked down during Shepparton’s COVID outbreak.

 

Multicultural cooks educate food-relief agencies after COVID struggles
Foodshare board member Cheryl Hammer, Food Link’s Amy De Paola and Iraqi community health educator Eman Al Abbassi.(Supplied)

While the Red Cross sent out food packs to the quarantining families, most went unused.

That was when Wise Well Women, a group of female community health workers from Shepparton’s CALD communities, stepped in to help.

Joining forces with other community groups, they delivered culturally appropriate food packs to families.

 

Multicultural cooks educate food-relief agencies after COVID struggles

Syrian community member Shaza Alsmail with Marina Incletolli of the Vinnies.(Supplied)

Community cooks educate food relief agencies

Now, they’re working to educate food relief agencies for the future.

Wise Well Women recently hosted a cooking day, creating a space where food relief staff could learn from community cooks.

“They could observe the food preparation process and discuss ingredients, preferences and enjoy the tasty results,” co-convener Lorna Gillespie said.

The women hailed from Shepparton’s South Sudanese, Syrian, Afghan, Iraqi, and Democratic Republic of Congo communities. The event also allowed each cook to learn how to use Foodshare staples in traditional cooking — knowledge they can take back to their communities.

 

Multicultural cooks educate food-relief agencies after COVID struggles
Iraqi community health educator Eman Al Abbassi gives a cooking presentation.(Supplied)

Preparing for the future

Ms Gillespie says it is hoped that through these sessions, food relief agencies will be better able to support CALD communities in the future.

“We want to help them be more aware, more knowledgeable, and be able to respond in a more appropriate way in future,” she said.

Fresh mint, bay leaves, pumpkin leaves and rice, chickpeas, split red lentils, red kidney beans and vegetable oil were among the ingredients topping the cooks’ lists.

 

Multicultural cooks educate food-relief agencies after COVID struggles
Greater Shepparton City Council’s Melanie Holt with Democratic Republic of Congo community member Sarah Lungunya Mazambi.(Supplied)

“These are ingredients that are all readily available in Shepparton,” Ms Gillespie said. “So it was fantastic to encourage organisations like Foodshare to purchase food from these community shops that’s far more appropriate. “It really was a wonderful sharing of knowledge.”

 

Multicultural cooks educate food-relief agencies after COVID struggles

 


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