Six prisoners from Whanganui Prison recently received a marae catering qualification, a first in the prison.
The 14 week National Certificate in Marae Catering Level 2 course is run in partnership with UCOL in Whanganui.
The men, a majority of whom were graduates of the prison's Te Tirohanga programme, learned cultural guidelines for preparing food, and put their new skills to the test by creating dishes and serving them to guests at the prison. Te Tirohanga is the national kaupapa Maori rehabilitation programme and operates in Whanganui, Waikeria, Rimutaka, Tongariro and Hawkes Bay regional prisons.
"The skills gained from this course have many positives," said Elizabeth Manchee, the prison's assistant prison director.
"The men understand the importance of making better nutritional choices, can practise safe food handling and can demonstrate a basic knowledge of contamination hazards and control methods all within a tikanga environment.
"This course not only strengthens whanau relationships, it gives the men skills to ensure they are better equipped to support their whanau and the wider community on release."
The course covered food safety, serving food, nutrition, diet, tikanga and cookery. Two food service components were also part of the course where prisoners cooked and served a hangi and small buffet, and a three course meal.
The hangi and small buffet were prepared and served in the Te Tirohanga whare. The three course meal was served to invited guests including local iwi at the course graduation. Guests were treated to an entrée of seafood chowder with fresh steamed mussels and home-made focaccia bread, followed by pork and beef boil-up with kumara, spinach and Irish dumplings for main, and poached pears with ice cream and chocolate sauce for dessert.
Ms Manchee said an important part of the course was "embedded" literacy and numeracy.
"While they may not have known it, the men were improving their literacy and numeracy through practical everyday examples, like working out costs, measuring ingredients, recording temperatures, reading recipe instructions, cooking times and controlling portion sizes.
"They've come a long way, and they should be proud of their qualification."
She said Te Tirohanga whares are founded on principles of wairua, whanau, manaaki, kaitiaki, and rangatira. "Te Tirohanga provides a unique kaupapa Maori environment and programmes to meet the specific needs of men (tane) in prison, including preparation for their release".