Our interview with Amber Magna of Feel Good Food Packs...

We are big fans of the lovely Amber Magna from Feel Good Food Packs! She's a woman on a mission to make healthy food available to those experiencing homelessness in Australia. Feel Good Food Packs have released an e-book full of health recipes (including one from our very own founder, Kate) as a fundraiser for the cause. We caught up with Amber to find out all about the project and her business Simply Eat...

Tell us about Feel Good Food Packs and how the project got started?

Feel Good Food Packs started with an idea to make nutritious food accessible to Melbourne’s homeless community. I figured the simplest way to achieve this would be to create a snack pack containing healthy foods like trail mixes, raw food bars, jerky and bliss balls. I spent a few months researching homelessness and volunteering with Melbourne charities like Anonymous X and Community Kitchen to get a good understanding of whether the idea would be needed, and through talking to people on the streets I realised that there was a gap in the services currently being offered that these packs could fill.

The project started as something I felt I needed to do as my way of giving back, so initially it was self-funded, but I soon realised that so many other people cared about this issue, and I started receiving food donations from businesses within the health food industry. We now have a team of volunteers, receive regular food and monetary donations, sell a fundraising recipe ebook written with the help of health and wellbeing legends (like KOJA!) and we also offer workshops to help people learn about nutrition, cooking and food budgeting.

We know that you also run online nutrition courses when you’re not working on the Feel Good Food Packs. Tell us about these…

My mission is to make healthy eating accessible to as many people as possible. I absolutely love that there is a growing trend towards health and wellbeing, but I also feel that this can contribute to feelings of overwhelm for many people, as there is such an abundance of information available! The courses I run through my business, Simply Eat, break everything down into super simple steps and are designed to educate people to make their own choices about food, as opposed to simply giving them recipes and meal plans to follow for a short amount of time.

I see my courses as the stepping stone between processed food and green smoothies - they allow people to take their time and move towards a whole food diet in a way that isn’t overwhelming, and that fits in with their lifestyle and health goals. At the moment, I offer a free short course all about how to read food labels, and my signature course, The Simply Eat Program, helps people to build a solid foundation of a sustainable healthy diet, but in a gradual and manageable way.

Where did your passion for nutrition and health stem from?

Every time I’m asked this I wish I had an interesting story to tell, but the truth is that I have always felt inspired to learn about and teach nutrition. In my teens, I was under the impression that the government was the authority on healthy eating, so I had a view that the body was something to be controlled with calories and a low-fat diet. I first learned about a more natural way of eating about five years ago and it just clicked that food could be an incredibly powerful tool, rather than something to fear.

I see so many people who are still stuck in the mindset that food is out to get them, or that healthy eating is all about portion control and eating as little as possible, so it’s great to be able to help them see that there is a different way and realise that food exists to help you thrive, not sabotage you!

What inspires you?

Hearing about the changes that people make to their diet after doing one of my courses is really inspiring. Not only that, but hearing about the changes to their mindset. When people tell me that they no longer worry about food, or they feel confident in their nutrition knowledge, or able to listen to their bodies for the first time in a long time, I feel inspired to keep pushing forward and get my information and strategies out to as many people as possible.

With Feel Good Food Packs, I feel inspired when people tell us how much they enjoy the food in the packs. Initially I wondered if it would seem as if I was trying to push an agenda onto people and force them to care about healthy eating, but people tell me that this food makes them feel good and keeps them full, so they can see the value of it and that’s an amazing feeling.

What’s the one ingredient you can’t live without and why?

Is coffee an ingredient?! My sensible answer would be olive oil. I use it on toast instead of butter, I cook with it, drizzle it on salads, dip bread in it… love it! It feels so rich and indulgent but it’s so beneficial to health. I have noticed that there are a lot of olive oils out there that aren’t so great though, so my tips for finding a good one would be to choose extra virgin olive oil in a dark glass bottle, and avoid “light” olive oils or olive oil spreads as these often contain heavily processed oils, which aren’t too wonderful for health!

If you could give one piece of advice to someone wanting to start a volunteer based organisation like Feel Good Food Packs what would it be?

Get really clear on the problem that you want to solve, then find other organisations that are working to solve the same, or a similar, issue. Work with them for as long as possible and get a really solid understanding of the issue at hand, what is currently being done and what has already been tried.

It’s easy to think that you have the perfect solution for a problem, but the reality of the situation could be very different, so my best advice would be to become an observer and soak up as much information as possible before starting your own organisation. You may even be able to join an existing organisation and help them to achieve a shared goal, rather than starting your own separate project from scratch.

Find out more about the project over on the website www.feelgoodfoodpacks.com - they have very kindly offered a special for KOJA customers. You can save $5 off their fundraising recipe e-book by using the code REALFOOD at the check out. Amber has also personally put together a special offer for her online programmes on www.simplyeat.com.au - use the code REALFOOD to save $20 off the programme! Could this lovely lady get more generous! :)