In December 2015 Uniting Care Wesley (UCW) contacted the Australian International Year of Pulses (IYP) Project Coordinator asking for suggestions for incorporating IYP objectives into their long term SA Community Foodies program.
This program is a SA nutrition program that aims to build the capacity of communities to make healthier food choices by training and supporting volunteer community members to act as agents for change. Foodies promote four easy to understand and easy to remember key nutrition messages; eat breakfast every day, eat more vegetables and fruit, eat more whole foods and drink more water and less sugary drinks. Incorporating pulses into an every day diet directly meets three of these messages and supports the fourth.
Following a brainstorming meeting with the IYP Project Coordinator, the team at UCW decided to run an in house event for their volunteer foodies to teach them how to incorporate pulses into their community cooking classes.
Using resources and support provided by IYP Australia, UCW secured sponsorship funding to hire Sprout Cooking School and pay for 24 volunteers from across South Australia to undertake a 1 day workshop in October 2016, learning 3 simple recipes that were nutritious and inexpensive to prepare. Sprout Cooking School’s objective is to inspire everyone to cook, and fit the objectives of both IYP and the Community Foodies program.
Each of the meals cost less than $5 per serving and used pulses in a variety of ways, either as a whole ingredient (lentils incorporated into a salad, chickpeas incorporated into a vegetable side) or as an alternative to vegetables (mashed beans).
Teachers highlighted the ability of pulses to be complimentary to meat, or as a replacement if cost was an issue to the target audience. Tips for preparation and versatility of pulses was highlighted during the training. Volunteers were also given an overview of the nutritional benefits of pulses by a qualified nutritionist and some background on the Australian pulse industry from a production perspective.
The volunteer foodies will now return to their communities, many of whom are low socioeconomic demographic, and pass on their newfound skills to encourage use of pulses as an everyday food.
This model is an example of how an existing consumer program can be adapted with minimal expenses to realise the objectives of IYP, encourage pulse consumption in the general population and reach a large audience with minimal expense. It is also a great collaboration between the wider pulse industry and an organisation that on a daily basis works outside of the agricultural sector.
The Australian IYP National Committee would like to commend UCW on their innovative approach to the year and recommend that other organisations contact Pulse Australia for support in replicating the model through other consumer based programs currently on offer. The impact of the day will be monitored in the coming months to determine the reach of the initial event in regional and metropolitan communities.