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The Commons Sustenance project - healthy, sustainable & frugal cooking classes

Healthy and sustainable food doesn't have to be expensive – as long as you know how to cook from scratch. After a couple of generations of convenience food, weaning ourselves off processed and packaged food means learning a few new skills.

There’s plenty of food-related workshops helping to restore wholesome cooking skills. Sourdough bread baking, cheese making, food fermentation, and seasonal cooking workshops are relatively common these days.

But many of these workshops are beyond the financial reach of those that could benefit the most. So I was pleased when I heard about The Commons Sustenance project and its efforts to make lessons in wholesome cooking accessible to everyone in Newcastle.

Nissa Phillips, Common Sustenance project coordinator at The Commons Cafe. Little eco footprints

The Commons sustenance project is delivering 10 affordable food and well-being classes at The Commons cafe and community space in Hamilton.

"At only $5 per class, we aim to make healthy food and health education accessible for all," says project coordinator Nissa Phillips. Classes are open to anyone, but particularly target international students, young families and the socio-economically disadvantaged.

"Our classes are all about cooking good food with great people and having lots of fun."

Nissa speaks passionately about helping people realise that healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive. "You can buy a small jar of sauerkraut from a health food store for $13 – or for only a few dollars, you can buy a cabbage and make a huge container of it yourself.

The project is an extension of the work that The Commons is already doing to foster a culture of skill sharing in the Newcastle community. The Commons is a not-for-profit organisation that provides a space and opportunities for people to meet, share skills and work for change. 

Four of the 10 workshops have already been held, on topics such as cheese making and healthy cooking on a shoestring.

Nissa has been particularly pleased with the diversity of participants. "For the recent cooking on a shoestring workshop we had 24 participants from a broad range of backgrounds, including university students, hearing impaired, and single parents."

I really like the sound of the next class – intercultural teatime. Sharing a cup of tea is a wonderful way to bring people together. This Saturday, September 27, Amelia Koh-Butler will lead an exploration of teas and tea ceremonies. Participants will try three different teas: south-eastern tea, Mediterranean mint tea and Anglo-Celt tea. They will also learn how to make scones, summer rolls and life-changing crackers.

Other workshops will cover Mediterranean cooking, food for fussy kids, preserving and seasonal cooking.

Find out more or register here

Originally published in the Newcastle Herald Monday 22nd September 2014.