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WELLfed was established in Porirua East in August 2016 by two women, Rebecca Morahan and Kim Murray. Both have considerable experience in the business and financial sector and had been volunteering in several local organisations including Bellyful, a nationwide community organisation providing food for families with new-born babies or serious illness.

Over the years, these two women heard from some families they met that they wanted to learn how to cook and feed their families well. So Kim and Rebecca, along with eight women, started a free 8-week cooking class at Holy Family School in Cannons Creek, Porirua East. The goal was to learn how to cook nutritious, cheap, easy family meals.

Very quickly it became apparent that one block course was not going to be enough. All the mums wanted to keep learning and most felt they needed more to be confident enough to go it alone. And of course, through word of mouth, many more women and men wanted to join in.

In October 2017 a second daytime WELLfed class started at Corinna School in Waitangirua, followed by evening classes hosted by Pacific Health Services Porirua in November. Up until that time all the costs involved in running the programme had been met through local business donations. In November 2017 WELLfed became a charitable trust, eligible for grants, to fund expansion.

Now WELLfed is all set to grow into something much bigger.

Approach

“We intentionally started classes at primary schools,” says Rebecca, “working alongside parents from decile 1 schools, supporting them to feed their families well.”

WELLfed doesn’t focus on problems. There is no labelling and it is always a non-judgmental environment. Parents come to learn how to shop well and cook healthy food, all while having fun and making friends.

When they started Kim and Rebecca pulled out their Nana’s family favourite recipes for simple seasonal kiwi food, adapted them and had them reviewed by a dietician.

Each week the learners make a meal to take home, and learn some basic baking too.

The feedback from partners and children is extremely positive. Families enjoy being introduced to new tastes and flavours and they love the homemade food. What the learners ask to learn drives the programme design. Every element is co-designed and in class behaviour is led by learners, who set the tone for mutual respect.

There has been a big shift in some families’ diets, a move away from takeaways to fresh fruit and vegetables, and chat during the sessions is often about what’s on special at the supermarket that week.

One of the learners said – Before we never had any food in the pantry, now friends come along and look and say, Wow! You’re rich!

To make the programme successful Kim and Rebecca have identified and removed barriers to people coming along to learn.

Volunteers are important in this process.

Currently WELLfed has over 50 volunteers who help out in many ways, including picking up food rescue, cleaning, recipe testing, external communications, and support in the classes.

A lack of kitchen utensils also may need to be addressed. Some learners arrive at WELLfed without basic kitchen equipment at home – such as graters, peelers and measuring cups and spoons. WELLfed helps equip these families for successful cooking at home. Most equipment has been donated (new or second hand), and some items purchased using grant funding.

Course recipes are simplified and WELLfed has created graphic teaching materials, for accurate measurement. Graphics also help explain things like how three quarters of a cup is made up of one half and one quarter. In WELLfed’s supportive environment learners open up, asking when they need help, or can’t understand.

Costs have been structured down to a minimum. Kim and Rebecca still work on an almost voluntary basis, and venues are usually free or very low cost. Kaibosh and other food rescue organisations supply some of the ingredients and food banks donate other non-perishable items. Tawa College’s TEC ACE funding helps to provide payment for some tutor time and the WELLfed Trust is now working towards other funding avenues.

Getting grants must be made easier by the systems approach these two ex-corporate women bring to the organisation. Rebecca and Kim have built systems including a process mapping and management system in Bedrock to document how WELLfed is run. This includes the roles, the processes, procedures and policies. They use Xero to manage accounts and other technology tools to manage tasks, workflow, website and other supporting functions.

Life-changing

“For many, WELLfed is life changing for the whole family,” says Rebecca. “One mother with a large family shares openly that her weekly food costs went from $500 down to $300. And our learners take their new-found knowledge home and practise their cooking with their children. We are enabling changes which embed and ripple through a whole family.

“Many learners become leaders. They stay with WELLfed, and volunteer their time in class as a ‘Senior’ Learner, mentoring and supporting newcomers.

“We are bringing people together to cook, which is not only improving nutrition, wellness and finances – it has improved mental health too. Many become more confident. They make friends and experience a sense of community. There is always lots of hugs and laughter.

“Some come to realise that they can learn, or as one woman put it: I now see that I have a brain and can use it! Some have signed up to other courses. Lots are doing that. Some into nursing and one woman has plans to become a social worker. Others have gone into paid employment. One family has saved for a deposit for a house, and they never dreamed that would be possible.

“There have been some amazing dads with WELLfed as well. One solo dad said, I used to have no idea what to cook for my kids, now when I have them we cook together.”

Now a hub and testing the model

WELLfed has moved into the premises of an old bowling club in Cannons Creek, leasing it from the Porirua City Council. There they plan to convert the bowling green into a community vegetable garden where the learning will continue: composting, planting, caring for the vegetables and harvesting – to eat! The club rooms will be fitted out as learning spaces.

Another change is that WELLfed is now in Hamilton. Facebook and an excellent website is making the organisation digitally visible and a group in Hamilton asked if they could use the model. The Bedrock resource means that Rebecca and Kim feel confident the organisation can be successfully replicated in other centres, (with their support and assistance), so they are proceeding with the setup on a trial basis before planning any future expansion.

After winning Porirua awards in both 2016 and 2017 WELLfed went on to win the Regional Rising Star 2017 award from the Wellington Community Trust.

You can read learner stories at www.wellfed.kiwi/learner-stories; and watch WELLfed’s promotional video, made for the opening of the new hub at ‘A Taste of WELLfed’
For further information about WELLfed visit their website www.wellfed.kiwi or Facebook page ‘WELLfed NZ’ or email contact@WELLfed.kiwi