What do you do with a carton of fresh asparagus?

If you’re a young mum at Hannah Place, you get cracking in the kitchen and make it into nourishing toddler food.

Using ingredients donated by food rescue organisation OzHarvest, new and expecting mothers are mastering basic cookery skills as part of their supported independent living.

Centacare’s Megan Welsh says the weekly delivery of fresh produce does more than satisfy appetites.

“The clients look forward to it because they can cook together and try out new things in the kitchen,’’ she says.

“This helps to build their confidence and provides them with a sense of accomplishment, which they may never have felt before.’’

Young women under guardianship who are pregnant and parenting, and require support to bond with and care for their baby, can stay at Hannah Place until the age of 18.

Most clients have spent their formative years in out-of-home care due to unresolved family crisis, childhood trauma and other complexities such as mental health, sexual violence, and drug use.

“When the asparagus arrived, we taught them how to make toddler food and simple meals like quiche,’’ Megan says.

“Many of the young women we meet have never cooked before because they’ve not had role models at home or even known what it’s like to have a fridge and pantry full of food.’’

Clients at Centacare’s specialist youth homelessness service Carlow Place, which has adopted a trauma-informed approach to food, also share in the spoils which arrive from OzHarvest every Tuesday.

Cooking up the produce helps the young people to build a positive relationship with food so that it not only provides nutritional benefits but emotional nourishment as well.

“It’s not just food that a child takes in as nourishment from a very young age, it’s the care and love that goes with it,’’ says Tina Breen, Senior Social Worker.

“Young people who have experienced trauma, abuse and neglect are usually very anxious in relation to food because of the feelings and triggers it evokes.

“They may eat very little or they may binge eat, often on junk food, as a way of self-soothing. This is usually a substitute for the kind of reassurance they would receive from a parent.’’

Tina says OzHarvest provides the added benefit of enabling young people to taste foods such as salmon, which are otherwise cost prohibitive.

OzHarvest was founded in 2004 by Ronni Kahn. Noting the huge volume of good food going to waste from the hospitality industry, she decided there had to be a better way. Today, OzHarvest rescues more than 180 tonnes of food nationwide each week from thousands of food donors including supermarkets, wholesalers, farmers and restaurants, for distribution to charities across Australia.