Chefs are working to promote healthy food and widen the market for local produce in an attempt to reduce rising cases of non-communicable disease in the Pacific. Chef Colin Chung is targeting young people with his new cookbook, seeking to encourage students to switch from fast food to nutritious meals, using locally available ingredients.
Nutritious, locally sourced alternatives to fast food are being provided by Pacific island smallholder farmers working with well-known chefs to tackle the rise in non-communicable disease (NCD). Renowned chefs, such as Robert Oliver and Colin Chung, are on a mission to revolutionise culinary practices in the region.
After farmers and chefs were brought together at the 2015 Pacific Agritourism week, held in Nadi, chefs have stepped up to the challenge of promoting local food to combat rising NCDs, with a variety of initiatives. For instance, Chung recently launched a cook book, Kana Vinaka, at the University of the South Pacific (USP) campus in Suva, Fiji in April 2017. To bring his recipes to life, Chung held a live cooking demonstration with Ministry of Agriculture staff and University of the South Pacific (USP) Technical and Further Education students.
University students often resort to imported ready-to-cook meals, such as canned mutton, beef and noodles, high in salt and saturated fats. However, Chung’s cookbook provides recipes based on their nutritional value and availability of ingredients throughout the region. It is hoped that the chef’s demonstration at USP will encourage more students to prepare their own healthy food, using local ingredients.
The initiative was commended by Fiji’s Minister of Agriculture, Inia Serairatu, who noted, “Considering that a significant amount of food consumed in Fiji is imported, this book with its innovative recipes and focus on seasonal, locally-produced food will be easily adopted in schools and educational institutes”. The cook book will be sold at USP campuses across the region and will also be available online.
While chefs are focusing on getting food from farm to table, a significant responsibility rests on the shoulders of farmers themselves. The Pacific Islands Farmers Organisation Network (PIFON) is working on several projects across the region to support farmers and increase market demand for nutritious local produce. In March 2017, PIFON's Tonga members - MORDI and Nishi Trading signed an agreement with the University of Tokyo to implement a project to help fight obesity in Tonga. The agreement will extend PIFON’s Pacific Breadfruit and Seeds Program, which currently helps farmers in Samoa and Taveuni procure machines to enable them to make healthier gluten free flour.