Bendigo Foodshare’s new schools cooking program is bringing fun to the classroom, teaching important skills and helping to reduce food insecurity for young people across our region.

Thanks to StreetSmart Australia’s #SmartMeals program, students at Castlemaine Secondary College have spent the past two weeks cooking delicious meals in their school kitchen, which have come back to us at Bendigo Foodshare to support our food relief efforts.

The program links in with existing curriculum within the VCAL program, allowing students to meet specific outcomes from planning, preparing and cooking meals – and then contributing to community through donating the meals back to our organisation.

After cooking, students share a meal, usually what they’ve cooked, and have the opportunity to take the ingredients home to cook the meal for themselves.

So far, students have made lasagne, fruit crumble, spicy lentils and risotto – which have been distributed through some of our 96 food relief agencies, including those which support young people doing it tough.

VCAL teacher at Castlemaine Secondary College Caroline McLaren, leading the project, said students have flourished with the opportunity to be involved in such a program.

“I have seen the enjoyment that can come from students preparing and cooking meals in the classroom, and then using these meals to support fellow classmates and the wider community to have access to food,” she said.

“Initiatives such as this provide important food knowledge for young people to use later in life, and the skills and resources to reduce food poverty.”

Throughout the process, students are also gaining the knowledge to support themselves if they’re in need.

Bendigo Foodshare Project Officer Sam Kane said the program was helping to reduce youth food insecurity across Central Victoria.

“Research undertaken by Bendigo Foodshare in 2020 indicated that 71% of local research participants had been food insecure in the previous two years, yet only 12% had sought support from charities or support services,” he said.

“Many young people told us that as part of building a food secure future, they wanted to learn skills and knowledge and have access to information to support themselves. This project does just that – and is also plenty of fun.”

Congratulations and thank you to Castlemaine Secondary College students for being involved as our first school – and thanks to StreetSmart Australia for providing funding for this cookup.