Tika Tunu course for Pacifika women

Tika Tunu is a free cooking class focusing on making healthy, delicious and affordable meals for the family. These fun, hands-on demonstrations teach easy Kiwi-style meals. Each Tika Tunu session also includes discussion around nutrition, planning meals, reading food labels and shopping on a budget.

The Kiribati community in Warkworth arose because of the need for workers in the horticulture and viticulture industries in the area. For example, the Southern Paprika company, the largest exporter of capsicums in New Zealand, has been employing I-Kiribati for more than a decade through the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme.

It has been noted that I-Kiribati has fewer cultural networks and infrastructure in New Zealand than many other Pacific migrants because of their smaller numbers and more recent history of immigration to New Zealand.

There is now a vibrant community of Kiribati families in Warkworth but they struggle at times to adapt to New Zealand culture and societal practices.

Dietary wise, in their native Kiribati and here in New Zealand they typically have a low dietary diversity and suffer from micronutrient deficiencies because of the limited availability and affordability of nutritious foods such as fruit and vegetables. This is likely to have a bearing on both obesity and micronutrient malnutrition. Meals are predominantly of refined rice and fruit and vegetables consumption is well below recommended levels.

Fish, which would be a large part of their diet in Kiribati, is generally too expensive to buy in New Zealand and feeding a large family on a budget is a challenge. Here in NZ they tend to eat a diet high in rice, refined flour and low in fruit and vegetables. This has led to obesity, diabetes and other illnesses associated with malnutrition becoming even more prevalent in this community.

This course aims to teach the young Kiribati mums healthy ways to cook for their families using lots of seasonal vegetables and adding affordable sources of protein to family meals.

Programme also aims to help the women:

  • Learn how easy it is to make healthy, tasty, affordable meals incorporating kiwi foods which are readily accessible and affordable as well as enhancing existing cultural foods to make them more healthy;
  • Learn what foods are better choices for our families;
  • Improve skills, motivation, confidence to cook;
  • Eating more vegetables and fruits

Kiribati people love to celebrate and share meals so we added celebration and baking recipes as well. We also found that they assumed the Kiwi way to provide lunch for their kids was to buy it from the bakery highly refined pies and cakes. A morning spent sharing healthy and affordable lunch box ideas was greatly enjoyed.

Ovens are not common in Kiribati and the mums were very keen to learn how to roast and to bake so we added this to the menus.

Food parcels, which many have received from social agencies from time to time also typically consisted of lots of tin of tomatoes and beans, neither of which the women knew what to do with. Creating healthy meals such as Chilli con carne from these tins was also said to be very helpful.

Rosanna Ball, the community social worker for the Mahu Vision trust was key in encouraging this shy group of women to attend the course. Having someone such as Rosanna that the women knew and trusted to bridge the gap meant that Priscilla (facilitator) was able to quite quickly gain trust with the group and reciprocal relationships formed. Priscilla asked them what they wanted to learn to cook first and ensured they felt they could feel relaxed and safe in the environment. It wasn’t long before there were laughter and the women having lots of fun whilst learning valuable nutritional knowledge.

The group attendance each week was fluid with a core of about 12 women committing to complete the course. Sometimes many more wandered in for a chat and a look see and this was encouraged, as this is the relaxed and easy going way with most Pacifika people. No pressure was given to be on time as these women are often time poor and have large families to attend to. Mostly they came late and then stayed for several hours after the course had finished, chatting and enjoying each other’s company. Grandmothers came and went with babies and toddlers. Some others could only make a few sessions but they were still given all the handouts or recipes if they wished.

We were able to include healthy food gifts each week such as Weet-Bix, vegetable seedlings, tins of beans etc.

One week the ladies organised a “Bring and share” vegetable stall with excess vegetables and fruit from their gardens and places of work which was a huge success.

The facilitator bought in different types of Kiwi fruits and vegetables each week and showed them how to use them in cooking when they were in season.

Post course comments from participants

1.  What did you find most useful about the programme?

“I enjoyed learning about new vegetables and how to cook them.”

“I cook more vegetables now and have rice only twice a week and have reduced sugar”

“I have learnt to cook the traditional dishes more healthy.”

“I am cooking more healthy food for my entire family.”

“Learning how to cook NZ food.”

“Bake and roast because I love to bake for my kids and roast some food for my family to stay healthy.”


2.   What did you enjoy about the programme?

“Working together and having fun.”

“Cooking different recipes.”

“More vegetables and roast vegetables.”

“Stir fries are very helpful and I use the recipe a lot.”

“Learning new recipes and enjoying the company of our fellow friends and especially Priscilla.”

“Learning more about healthy eating and new skills and having fun and lots of laughs.”


3.  What are you doing differently now as a result of the programme?

“I used unhealthy food before and I join the cooking class I can change my routine for cooking unhealthy food and now I am on healthy food.”


4.  What were the key learnings for you?

“Learning how to cook for diabetic people.”

“Learning to cook new healthy food for my entire family.”

Last modified: January 19, 2022