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Nutrition program comes to Cairns

Residents from remote and regional communities are getting together in the kitchen to share new skills.

Friday May 10, 2013

Ellen Roughsey with Red Cross volunteer Karen White preparing food at the first FOODcents session at the Red Cross Cairns Wellbeing Centre.

The FOODcents program is offering nutrition and cooking classes for people staying at the Red Cross Cairns Wellbeing Centre (CWC). The centre provides accommodation for people from remote and regional areas, predominantly around Cape York, who are in Cairns for medical treatment.

Red Cross is delivering the program in partnership with the Apunipima Cape York Health Council. Running over eight weeks, the project is delivered in two-hour sessions in the centre's kitchen. The sessions are tailored to the needs of guests, with each session providing useful tips and advice around preparing nutritious meals within a budget and when access to supermarket shelves is limited.

Red Cross Far North Queensland Regional Manager Michael White said many guests of the accommodation centre arrive from remote locations where accessing fresh fruit and vegetables can be difficult, especially during the wet season.

"Communities become reliant on cheaper, processed foods that are easily accessible and can be stored for longer, but are not always the healthiest choice," he said.

Sessions involve participants cooking together and then sharing a healthy meal while discussing ways to improve diets for better health outcomes. The program also aims to draw on each person's own unique skills and life experience enabling two-way learning.

Having a nutritionist from Apunipima deliver the program provides a chance for people to discuss their health needs and ask questions in an informal and non-judgemental setting. Apunipima Dietitian Cara Polson said Cape York residents often travel to Cairns to access medical services, and during their stay they can find it challenging to manage their health conditions when usual foods and family support networks are not accessible.

"The FOODcents program offers them a chance to talk about which foods are the healthiest choice and how to include healthy choices on a limited budget," she said.

This partnership between Apunipima Cape York Health Council and the Australian Red Cross is providing a great opportunity for the two organisations to work together to further support the health needs of Cape York people."

Participant Ellen Roughsey, from Mornington Islands said her people never used to get heart and kidney disease and diabetes.

"They used to just eat bush food. Now they have the shop and the problems," she said.

"Everyone at the first session all agreed that the best, tastiest and healthiest food was the food you caught yourself in the ocean and the mangroves."

An extra special FOODcents Session will be held this week to celebrate World Red Cross Day.