ONE of Queensland's most iconic and trusted women's associations is championing the cause of improving health for people living in the state's rural, regional and remote areas.
Queensland's Country Women's Association's (QCWA) Country Kitchens program, encourages Queenslanders to get more fruit and vegetables into their day. The program has five key messages that promote cooking at home, checking portion sizes, sitting less and moving more, and reducing sugary beverages.
Program Coordinator Fiona McKenzie said they focus on the rural and remote regions where it can be challenging to access fresh fruit and vegetables, and consequently get your 2 & 5 serves each day.
"The consequences of not eating fruit and vegetables on the health of Queenslanders living in rural areas is alarming," she said.
"QCWA's Country Kitchens is a unique strategy combining the strong community influence of the Association with the health messages Queenslanders need to embrace."
According to research, the state had the highest rate of adult obesity in Australia and over the past five years, increased at double the national rate with two in three adults overweight or obese. For children, nearly 1 in 4 were considered overweight or obese.
Obesity is a major risk factor for chronic disease such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.
QCWA's Country Kitchens program aims to modify dietary risks associated with chronic disease by inspiring country Queenslanders to adopt healthier eating practices.
"While knowledge of chronic disease has improved over the past 30 years, many people do not value the impact of not eating vegetables regularly," Ms McKenzie said.
A team of accredited practicing dietitians and nutritionists funded by the Queensland Government, is coaching QCWA members through healthy cooking classes in branch halls across the state.
Ms McKenzie said "The message is clear, vegetables can be included in meals daily. Good, nutritious food can be cooked at home quickly, easily and cheaply."
Accessible in three key ways, Country Kitchens sessions includes practical tips to improve health and wellbeing.
A series of immersive Hands On Nutrition Workshops provide useful training for cooks of all levels, aiming to improve cooking skills and nutritional awareness across a range of meals. Workshops cover a knife skills session, nutrition and chronic disease information, cooking demonstration and hands on component, recipe modification guidelines and a delicious lunch.
"Fun and practical, these workshops help participants build on their cooking skills with each session. After the first session you're hooked," said Ms McKenzie.
Or you might visit your local QCWA branch when they hold a Foodie Talk from one of the program's nutritionists. In just one hour you can learn how to modify your recipes to make them healthier-it is a rewarding yet lighter way of participating.
"The Country Kitchens team can also arrange a Showcase such as attending the local agricultural show or producer's expo. A Showcase not only supports the QCWA branch but helps promote the program's key messages to the broader community," said Ms McKenzie.
20 communities have so far enjoyed the benefits of engaging Country Kitchens. A further 21 towns are on the schedule over the coming months, with participants learning more about how easy, affordable and pleasurable healthy eating can be.
More than 80 regions across the state stand to benefit over the life of the program.
By fostering great community relations with other local entities such as local councils, schools, mothers groups and men's sheds, QCWA branches are effectively extending the Country Kitchens program, boosting the health of their regions.
"The QCWA is perfectly placed to make lasting changes within their communities. They are an integral part of life in regional towns are passionate about becoming healthier," Ms McKenzie said.
For more information visit the QCWA Country Kitchens website www.qcwa.org.au /countrykitchens or Facebook qcwacountrykitchens
FACILITATOR IN PROFILE
Why did you decide to get involved with QCWA's Country Kitchens program?
The program offers ways of introducing healthier food options for QCWA branches. And I saw it as a great opportunity for younger people to get involved in the QCWA and possibility become members.
What part of the Country Kitchens program appeals to you the most and why?
I really like the five key messages part of the program, I think they are really easy to follow. I also really like how the program teaches people to modify a recipe to make it healthier.
What have you enjoyed the most about becoming a facilitator?
Meeting new people. I am a people person and it was a new way for me to interact with them. Enjoyment! I thought the QCWA Country Kitchens program was a great way to bring the QCWA into the "new age".
In what ways have you been able to reinforce the Country Kitchens five key messages within your community?
Myself and local personal trainer Natalie Sanderson started the Blackwater Health Movement which focuses on improving healthy eating (cook at home and increase fruit and vegetables) and physical activity (sit less, move more) in the community. Within our branch we have started offering Country Kitchens approved options at our stall at the Blackwater Markets and also we have a greater emphasis on health at our meetings, discussing topics such as safe food handling and physical activity.
Does your Branch have a Country Kitchens inspired community activity or event planned in the near future?
The Blackwater Health Movement held its first event on 6 December at the Blackwater QCWA Hall for local miners who have an interest in improving their health. The day included a physical activity session with a local PT and a hands-on nutrition workshop with myself. In the future I also plan to do some workshops with the PCYC and the local schools.
Cooking time 15
Preparation time 20
500g lean mince (beef, lamb, pork or chicken)
1 potato, grated
200g sweet potato, grated
1 zucchini, grated
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, grated
1 long red chilli, deseeded and diced
½ cup wholemeal bread crumbs
1 tablespoon tomato paste, reduced salt
1 tablespoon hot sauce, reduced salt
Garlic chives and parsley to taste
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
3 sheets reduced fat puff pastry
PREHEAT oven 180oC
ADD the grated vegetables, onion, herbs & pepper to a bowl.
ADD the mince, sauce and breadcrumbs
MIX until combined.
CUT the pastry sheets down the middle, place the mixture down the centre and fold in. Use a clean chopping board to roll the sausage rolls.
BRUSH the pastry with egg; SPRINKLE the sunflower seeds on the top.
CUT into ~12 pieces and place in the oven for 20 min, or until golden brown.
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