More from Karalyn @ Food Plant Solutions: Think Global, Act Local

Interview by Anna White

Trainees at the community training about uses for local plants and foods in Vietnam.

Recently I chatted with Karalyn Hingston. Karalyn is the Executive Officer and only paid employee of Food Plant Solutions – a small organisation which is achieving great things on a shoestring budget both at an international level and in Australia. I found it inspiring to learn of a small Australian organisation achieving positive outcomes and punching well above its weight. Cooking Circles chatted with her last year and here she gives an update on the organisations’ international development projects.

The photos throughout this article were taken in Vietnam by Food Plant Solutions’ program partner – AOG World Relief.  The program has been greatly successful. What began as a pilot program in 2012, it has since expanded to eight Food Plant Solutions school gardens, with plans for three more in the pipeline. AOG World Relief has said “Food Plant Solutions is a useful program because it aims to empower children… to harness local food plant resources to feed themselves and their families. (This is important) in response to the emergency facing the developing world with the rise of malnutrition.”

Food Plant Solutions is based in Tasmania and was set up to end hunger, malnutrition and ensure food security.  Food Plant Solutions aims to influence people’s thinking with regards to food choices through education, by presenting scientific evidence in an accessible way. This empowers people to make change. The organisation follows the principle of “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime”.

The organisation has an array of guides and publications covering over 30 countries. Each focuses on plants that are suited to the country and known to grow there and are high in nutrients.

Project education uses these informative, colourful publications.  Non-government organisations also draw on the guides to educate communities on the nutrient value of their local foods.  The communities are encouraged and empowered to grow and cook these plants.

Karalyn is a born and bred Tasmanian.  She works from her home and doesn’t travel to any of the countries where Food Plant Solutions’ projects are operating.  But she is passionate about the work they are doing and the positive results they are achieving.  She is clearly highly dedicated and very hard working.

I ask Karalyn for an example of a country where Food Plant Solutions’ publications are being used.  She mentions Vietnam where one of the very successful programs has succeeded in reducing malnutrition in children in one community by 95%.  Teachers are provided with the information on local plants and their nutritional value, and  then teach children how to grow the plants by establishing gardens at the school.  Kids are given a healthy lunch each day prepared  from plants grown in the garden, and it is they who then teach their parents how to grow these plants.  The health of the whole family improves as a result.

A school garden begins, run by the school kids.

The vibrant publication on Vietnam lists plants such as sweet potato which it states is very high in Vitamin A.  Also listed is horseradish leaf which is high in Vitamin C and winged bean, high in zinc.  The publication explains where to best grow these plants and also the sort of pests and diseases which might be attracted to them.

Food Plant Solutions produces publications in English and aims to have them translated in the language of each country where they are used.  It also produces colourful publications with pictures for those who have low levels of literacy. 

One of Food Plant Solutions’ strengths is its innovative approach in that it doesn’t send people to a country, but instead works with existing aid providers.  This reduces duplication and unnecessary costs.  Food Plant Solutions has partnerships with various aid providers throughout the world who are helping communities in these countries to grow locally adapted plants.

School kids plant local crops at Dai Hung school in Vietnam.

Karalyn talks about issues surrounding healthy food which exist also in her home state.   In 2016 (the most recent data available) the rate of diabetes in Tasmania was 8.1% of the population.  The rate of people who were obese was 35.6% for that same year.

Food Plant Solutions has run workshops on plants and nutrition in Tasmania for new residents.  For example, they ran a program for 40 Nepalese people this year.  The team presented local plants, along with how to grow and use these.   They prepared Nepalese curries using these plants. 

According to Karalyn, Food Plant Solutions “runs on the smell of an oily rag”. All donations go directly to fighting malnutrition unlike most charities which must cover administration and staff costs.  She says they are grateful for the support of many volunteers.  Whilst Food Plant Solutions is an organisation based on environmental sustainability, they themselves are not yet financially sustainable and are actively looking for donations, sponsors and introductions to organisations who might like to help support Food Plant Solutions short or long-term.

Through Food Plant Solutions’ educational material and support, the organisation is empowering people to understand the nutritional value of plants.  They are achieving amazing results.  But they need support to continue.  With five children under the age of five dying of malnutrition every minute in the world, the problem must not be ignored.  To donate please go to  For further details, email Karalyn at

Served with Doses of Love

Cooking Circles volunteer Anna White sat down with Sunita and Sanjay of Daana. Here’s a little of that conversation!

Sunita and Sanjay Kumar, who run Daana restaurant in Curtin describe themselves as chefs and social entrepreneurs.

Sunita and Sanjay originally started their first restaurant in Canberra at the Westside Container Village.  They specialised in Indian street food from this venue and it was a big hit.

Daana opened in September 2016.  It was recently awarded 2017 Best New Restaurant ACT by the Restaurant and

Catering Association Savour Awards.  The cuisine is predominantly South Indian and Coastal Indian.  South Indian cooking is based around rice,lentils, and stews.  Dishes such as dosa (a lentil and rice crêpe), idli (steamed lentil rice cakes), sambar (spicy lentil and vegetable stew) rasam (tomato, tamarind, and lentil soup)are all from the South.

Image: Sunita teaching a network of Cooking Circles members how to make Dosa at their Daana restaurant.  Continue reading “Served with Doses of Love”

A chat with Narelle Happ

Cooking Circles volunteer Anna White spoke to Narelle Happ about her passion for bush tucker, gardening, and community.

Narelle Happ is well known to Cooking Circles after running some workshops in Canberra on bush tucker.

Narelle studied permaculture, horticulture and landscape design. She is a permaculture teacher and works as a landscape designer for Sydney Wildflower Nursery, a native a specialist nursery.  She also works as an educator in seed raising, garden design, citrus fruit, pruning, permaculture, composting and worm farming.

Continue reading “A chat with Narelle Happ”

Yellow Ladybugs and Cooking Circles: Empowering Autistic Girls

By Jeanette Purkis

This article was originally published on Jeanette Purkis’ blog, and is available at You can read all about Jeanette and find all her musings at

I spent this afternoon at a Cooking Circles event with Yellow Ladybugs – two organisations which are in Canberra and whose work I really value.

Continue reading “Yellow Ladybugs and Cooking Circles: Empowering Autistic Girls”

Join Cooking Circles’ cooking class!

I’ll be sharing the best of the best recipes from Cooking Circles at Lake Night Learning in Belconne, ACT. Commencing Wednesday 18th October and running for 6 weeks, you’ll be taken on a global tour with seasonal ingredients from our Canberra region.

Venue: Lake Ginninderra College, Belconnen

When: Wednesdays from 18th October, 6.30PM-8.30PM

Cost: $220 + $15 per week

There are a few spots left – contact Lake Night Learning ASAP to lock in your spot! The course program is available online.


Recipes from travels in Timor Leste


by Ana Guterres

Ingrts.; 1 whole Snapper or Salmon optional, 1/2 of ginger, 1 Garlic clove, 1 whole Onion, 1/2 stick of Lemon grass, 2 bunch of Basil leaves, 1 whole lime, 2 tbsp of Soy souce, 3 or 4 lime or L2083_1069644750711_2599_nemon leaves, 1 teaspoon Salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder or 1/2 cubed fresh turmeric, 1 bunch challot choped, fresh sliced chilli optional, 2 tbsp olive oil and banana leaves or ALFOIL

Continue reading “Recipes from travels in Timor Leste”

Apples & Plastics this World Environment Day

I am determined to break my fixation with plastic bags and plastic stuff. That statistic I heard somewhere. sometime last year might be vague in context but has been wedged deep in my brain ever since – every piece of plastic ever produced still exists in some form. A lot of plastic, right?

If plastic were not a man(woman)made material then having something stick around for generations would be a good thing. But the only materials and objects that should become permanent pieces of our natural surrounds should, I think, be natural.

Continue reading “Apples & Plastics this World Environment Day”

Create bush tucker meals this Reconciliation Week

Book your Bush Tucker Cooking Circle Lunch now

Join Cooking Circles learn which native Bush Tucker plants you can grow and cook with. Learn how to harvest from native plants for using in savoury and sweet dishes, in drinks and baking. Taste testing and detailed notes included. We will then cook with some of the many ingredients and enjoy a native Bush Tucker lunch together

Narelle Happ is a garden designer and horticulturist who specialises in native garden and permaculture design.

She has over a decade of experience and is passionate about creating ‘living’ spaces which are nurturing, productive and sustainable.

Garden styles range from natural bushland, rainforest, cottage or formal. Permaculture designs include garden layouts for food production and sustainability. Designs that extend to engage and educate communities and schools by creating kitchen gardens and living classrooms.

A new year and a welcome

The first newsletter for the year is out, and it’s full of cooking and community goodness.

It’s great to be back and seeing in a new year, slowly. I’m still moving at a Carribean pace, and thinking fondly and what has been a magical wedding and honeymoon over December and January. Magical truly is the word! But on with the show….

Cooking Circles has started the year by organising a fun workshop with local Canberra restaurant, Pod Food. On a whim I contacted Sam of Pod Food via social media late last year, after Circles volunteer Michele ran a packed restaurant event with Taste of Bangladesh in Manuka. Sam’s idea of an outdoor paella gathering at their restaurant on a summer night sold Michele and I, and the workshop sold out in under a week. Our paella sess will go ahead this Wednesday with 30 women from many different walks of life.

Continue reading “A new year and a welcome”

An ‘Unconventional Apology’: Interview with Chantal

1. What sparked your project, The Unconventional Project? And could you tell us a little bit about what the project does?

Unconventional Apology Project (UAP) was sparked by a tragedy in my family. (Trigger warning: this interview contains a story of domestic abuse and violence from the ‘read more’ tag).

Image courtesy of the Unconventional Apology Project

Continue reading “An ‘Unconventional Apology’: Interview with Chantal”