Healthy food is essential for a healthy life.  Sadly, a poor diet can lead to serious health consequences such as diabetes, heart disease and decreased life expectancy.

On top of this, facing a future with no education, no job, the likelihood of becoming teenage parents, drug and alcohol abuse, depression and a life of poverty is a bleak but real possibility for many young Indigenous people.

That’s why Lockhart River Strong Heart Food Gang was introduced in 2013 as a healthy food service and employment skilling project.  Run by disadvantaged, disengaged and at-risk young people in the community and led by a secondary teacher from the local school, the Food Gang Project teaches food preparation and nutrition, and provides the opportunity for the young people to gain qualifications and employment opportunities in hospitality.  The Food Gang includes its very own “Healthy Pizzas Café” and “staff” uniforms which gives added professionalism to the service.

At its first pizza night, the Food Gang made 47 pizzas.  Away from the café, the Gang also caters for community functions such as the Lockhart River Learning Circles. One of the Learning Circle guests was the Puuya Foundations’ Patron, Dame Quentin Bryce, who called in during one of her visits to Lockhart.

With nationally recognised training (and attainment of a Certificate 2 competency) and a real, simulated work environment outside the school, the Food Gang gives these young, Indigenous people support, guidance and career development to reach their full potential and look forward to a more positive future.  While gaining skills, the young people also grow in self-confidence to seek employment. There are currently more than 20 young people enrolled in the secondary Program.

Puuya Foundation Chair Dottie Hobson – “I am proud to see our youth catering for our Learning Circles and learning good skills that will help them with work and life”.

It is expected that up to 180 people in Lockhart River will access healthy food and 19 will gain a qualification and important life skills.  The Strong Heart Food Gang project is funded by a Community Grant from the CBA and the Puuya Foundation and is part of Lockhart River’s economic and employment strategy.

Project partners are the CBA, MyPathway, the Lockhart River State School, community volunteers and the Puuya Foundation.

The Strong Heart Food Gang is just one way of creating real change in Lockhart River.

The program is now operated by the Lockhart River State School.  The school utilise the initiative to continue fostering hospitality skills with their students on an ongoing basis.