Monday 31 October 2022

Kai, kōrero, and manaakitanga  – building community at HomeGround

“I have learnt how easy it is to cook healthy affordable food. Loved the social side too – people coming together around food.”

At Auckland City Mission – Te Tāpui Atawhai, we are used to serving and distributing food. But early this month we saw the tables turned when a group cooked and served a special meal for their whānau and friends at Haeata.

The group, made up of 10 HomeGround tenants, had completed a six-week nutrition and cooking course onsite and wanted to celebrate by cooking for others.

Dining tables were decorated with candles and flowers and serving benches laden with three types of lasagne – beef, vegetarian and vegan. There were also salads made using produce the tenants had grown in their rooftop garden – lettuce and tomatoes topped with olives, feta and sunflower seeds. For dessert there were individual carrot cakes and trifle.

With food prep complete and guests beginning to arrive, the atmosphere took on a mix of excitement and nervousness. Tenants stationed themselves around the dining room to welcome guests and offer them a soft drink from the bar.

All participants spoke of their pride in completing the course and their surprise at what they had learned: the amount of sugar and salt in pre-prepared foods, the many ways that vegetables can be added to dishes, and the amount of money that could be saved by exchanging ingredients for seasonal items.

But what they enjoyed the most was the camaraderie, the joy of learning and cooking together and of gaining confidence in hosting.

For Marcus, 43, the course proved transformational. Marcus has lived at HomeGround for a few weeks now and says that taking part in the cooking course “was the first time I have ever loved something”.

“I really got into it. I relate to all the bros and our tutors; we had a laugh, and it was fun. I found out that I enjoy working with food because when I’m chopping and slicing, I feel peaceful, it takes my mind off things. I learned how to make meals much healthier by adding in vegetables, and by not buying foods with added sugar.”

Marcus also loves cooking for others, being hospitable to whānau and friends.

“I can cook almost anything. I like to cook roasts, I like boil-up, and we learned a raw fish dish. You use lime juice to “cook” the fish, add cucumber, and leave it for 10 minutes. It was delicious.”

For Marcus, the only downside was the course finishing. “I wish it could have been longer,” he said.

Tutor Anna says the atmosphere on the six-week course was fun and relaxed. “Participants relaxed and started to really enjoy themselves. There was a great sense of community/ friendship between the group. We all worked a team assisting and supporting each other.”

Anna and her colleague Kathy delivered the course on behalf of the NZ Nutrition Foundation with support from Auckland University students, Trent and Melody. They used the Foundation’s Tika Tunu cookbook.


What the participants said:

“I have learnt how easy it is to cook healthy affordable food. Loved the social side- people coming together around food.”

“Learning how to extend meat further and learning methods/ recipes in order to use ingredients that I otherwise wouldn’t know how to use.”

“Getting to eat what I helped to make.”

“Learning about healthier choices we can add to meals to make them go further and be better for health.”

“Cooking as a team, learning new skills in cooking and eating healthier.”

“Making food I have never made before and cooking with an awesome team.”

What was cooked:

  • Chicken stir fry
  • Tofu stir fry
  • Tropical sago pudding
  • Exciting dishes made from canned fish
  • Vegetable and tuna fritters
  • Savoury muffin quiches
  • Potato topped mini pies
  • Mexican salsa salad
  • Mediterranean pasta with bacon/ beans.
  • Mac n cheese
  • Coleslaw salad / dressing
  • Pikelets
  • Kiwi Burgers (chicken or mince).
  • Chickpea patties.
  • Green summer salad

This was a pilot delivered in response to a demand for a practical cooking and nutrition programme to teach participants basic cooking skills, and to gain confidence and motivation to cook well when on a limited budget. Practical skills covered included knife skills, food safety principles, extending meals using cheaper plant-based protein foods and reading food labels. Focus was on preparing culturally appropriate meals using seasonal ingredients.