Responsiveness and a systems approach have made this Porirua NGO an award winner and an essential service during the lockdown.

Rebecca Morahan and Kim Murray started the community-led organisation just over four years ago because they discovered that many people in their community wanted to learn how to cook. Since then WELLfed has moved from a cooking class once a week for a small group of mainly Maori and Pasifika women, to an organisation with four day-time classes per week, over 50 volunteers and a large community garden, teaching 150 Porirua East households how to prepare healthy, affordable meals.

About 40 percent of those in their classes are Māori, 50 percent Pasifika, and 10 percent other or migrant. Rebecca says that the true benefits of WELLfed are clear when a crisis, like the Covid-19 pandemic strikes: “Our collective mahi has invested in individuals to be able to get through this difficult time. WELLfed provides skills, confidence, equipment and support for families to feed themselves well using basic, low-cost, seasonal ingredients.”

At Level 4 the organisation was part of the Porirua Civil Defence Emergency Welfare Response and supported families across the city with recipes, videos and tips to surviving lockdown with families underfoot. During this time WELLfed staff and volunteers checked in with many past and present learners to see if they were OK and arranged emergency supplies for some where needed.

Their cooking classes, for those already enrolled in the programme, were run remotely by video. Prior to the classes the ingredients were dropped off at people’s homes.

In Levels 4 and 3 some of these households had in their ‘bubbles’ a large number of older people, people with current significant health conditions, and large families.

At Level 3 WELLfed started purchasing $12 packs of fruit and veggies from the local coop and their team dropped these off to doorsteps of 50 households. Once again they hand-picked recipes to go with the produce in the bags each week – and recipes were supported by videos. People who had recently joined the class were phoned to make sure they had all the necessary cooking equipment. All the videos encourage children to be involved in the preparation of family meals and many people posted the results of their cooking on the WELLfed Facebook page.

“The WELLfed community ,” says Rebecca “are supporting and inspiring each other.”

Because they could not hold their usual cooking classes when there was a limit of 10 people, Level 2 provision was the same as Level 3. The next step is to start back with a small group of graduates that they call Seniors, to make more videos of new recipes. These Seniors are women who now have the confidence and skills to move into teaching roles.

Rebecca says that she knows from the feedback they are getting that the support WELLfed gives to their high-need families provides some calm in this storm. “WELLfed has a special way of building community connections and will continue to ‘transform lives using food” . This support, care and manaakitanga is especially critical at such a time of need and increased stress and pressure. WELLfed provides not just food but the confidence, skills and equipment to set people up for success and to be able to cook for themselves and their own families. The coming months will be a time of hardship for many – but what an opportunity we could turn it into for families to connect over food, learning and growing intergenerational life-skills!”