A COOKING program aiming to ensure all people can access healthy and cheap meals was launched in Bendigo on Tuesday, the first step in establishing a new community-based fresh produce model for the city.

Grow Cook Share Cooking Clubs is a collective initiative of Bendigo Regional Food Alliance, Bendigo Foodshare, Salvation Army, Bendigo TAFE, City of Greater Bendigo, Coliban Water, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and community groups, funded through last year’s Victorian Government Pick My Project program.

The initiative has three tiers, in establishing six cooking clubs within local community groups, increasing the supply of fresh produce to Bendigo Foodshare, and growing the garden and facilities at Gravel Hill Gardens.

The clubs will focus on preparing food and involving participants in that, to teach cooking skills.

Chair of Bendigo Regional Food Alliance Jennifer Alden said the program would be a collective impact by local food organisations to provide something of value for the community.

“We are very keen that people can develop those lifelong skills that will actually set them up for better health,” Ms Alden said.

“Certainly the food literacy and cooking skills is a really big component of that.”

Tuesday’s launch involved a workshop with interested parties to plan what’s next, as well as presentations from Rob Rees of the United Kingdom’s Let’s Get Cooking model, and Michele Witham from Heathcote Primary School’s Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program.

While the program is funded for 12 months, Ms Alden is confident it would become sustainable beyond this, with resources and skills developed that can be carried on.

“We’ve got enormous opportunity here in Bendigo to drive this program to great success. This is the first effort… it can expand way
beyond where we’re located,” Ms Alden said.

“We’re feeling really, really optimistic.”