Using food to offset violence

A Dunedin Women's Refuge initiative is proving to be food for thought.

The Healthy Eating, Heathy Action programme was developed to help the recovery of young people who have been exposed to domestic violence, by teaching them how to grow vegetables and cooking skills.

Most of the course participants associated food with violence, Te Whare Pounamu Women's Refuge advocate Maria Jones said yesterday.

''People do not realise that a lot of domestic violence happens in the kitchen and around meals, in front of the children. Children of domestic violence often learn to avoid the kitchen, as there are objects there that can hurt and it is a place where their mothers can be bullied, verbally harrassed and hurt.''

Nearly 70 young people, aged between 5 and 16, had completed the 10-week programme over the past year.

''While we plant and garden and cook, they feel safe to share stories of having their meals thrown across the room or, with their tight, stressed tummies, being made to eat their meals. In some cases, not having food, or just drinking water for sustenance came up,'' Ms Jones said.

''After our programme, we clearly see children making an effort to engage with mum around food, help her in food preparation and using meal times to talk about positive stuff.''

The refuge published a recipe book this month based on the programme, Tamariki Master Chef and Gardener.

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