For people serving time in prison, every aspect of their life changes on the day of release. Many have little family support and often it is their first time living independently. After taking part in our Food Sensations® for Adults program, an inmate at Karnet Prison Farm sent our facilitator this heartfelt letter.
It’s not unusual for our Food Sensations® facilitators to be told their sessions are life-changing. Participants report they are eating more servings of veggies, trying new foods, making better choices when shopping and developing the confidence to cook healthy meals.
Food Sensations® for Adults is a food literacy program that aims to improve dietary intake through nutrition education and cooking sessions. The classes are free and are targeted at low to middle-income adults. Sessions are generally hosted by community centres or community groups, with 7 to 15 people participating in a 4-week program. They are also conducted at several WA prison facilities.
Christine Laird, Corrective Services Acting Assistant Commissioner for Rehabilitation and Reintegration said, “many prisoners need guidance about what constitutes a healthy lifestyle. The Food Sensations® for Adults program provides a strong focus on nutrition, which supports emotional and physical health and wellbeing.”
Each program is tailored to suit the group. The first hour covers nutritional education topics including the five food groups, serving sizes, reading nutritional information on labels, budgeting and meal planning. Then it’s hands-on in the kitchen, as participants practice a wide range of cooking skills and learn our healthy recipes.
“The feedback we get is that prisoner participants enjoy these short courses and at the end of the workshops, they get to eat the healthy meals they have created.” said Christine.
At the Wandoo Rehabilitation Prison for Women, new meal arrangements were recently put in place in readiness for possible staff shortages due to COVID. During March, the whole prison transitioned from having all meals provided, to being completely self-care. Having just finished running a Food Sensations® for Adults program, we provided a suite of resources to support women in doing their own meal planning and cooking their own meals.
The Department of Justice has an ongoing relationship with Foodbank WA. Women from Boronia’s Pre-release centre have volunteered in our warehouse packing food hampers, and last year our Centre for Hunger Relief received a donation of one thousand kilos of pumpkins from Karnet Prison Farm. This support for Foodbank WA on the farm or in the warehouse helps us feed the hungry, whilst also helping prisoners develop essential work and life skills.
Even more fundamental to survival after release is the ability to take care of oneself with healthy food and good eating habits. As the letter from our participant shows, Food Sensations® for Adults provides the knowledge and skills needed to eat well – but more than that, it provides a positive outlook for inmates preparing to make a fresh start after release.
Food Sensations® is funded by the Western Australian Department of Health.