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Stir it Up

Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District
Project Added:
19 June 2012
Last updated:
17 October 2014

By Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District and Healthy Cities Illawarra


Stir it up! is a community-based partnership project that provides training and support for community members to promote healthy eating to their local communities.

Stir it up! is coordinated by the Health Promotion Service and Healthy Cities Illawarra. Our key partners are TAFE Illawarra, Baptist Community Services and Wollongong Church of Christ.


The aim of Stir it up! is improve the knowledge and skills of local communities about healthy eating, in order to address determinants of food security, chiefly those relating to eating a poor quality diet.

  • To improve the food security status of low-income communities in the Illawarra region, using a peer-education model.
  • To increase the capacity of volunteer peer- educators to deliver healthy eating messages to their local communities
  • To increase the reach and number of healthy eating messages and initiatives to vulnerable communities

Food Security

Food security is the ability of individuals, households and communities to acquire appropriate and nutritious food on a regular and reliable basis, using socially acceptable means.

Conversely, food insecurity can mean:

  • Not having enough food
  • Experiencing hunger as a result of running out of food and being unable to afford more
  • Eating a poor quality diet as a result of limited options
  • Anxiety about acquiring food
  • Having to rely on food relief


  • It is estimated that between 5.7 and 6.8% of the Illawarra population experience food insecurity and in vulnerable population groups such as the frail elderly, unemployed, disabled or isolated, this figure can be as high as 25%
  • Links between food insecurity and overweight and chronic diseases
  • Peer-education model successful in reaching vulnerable population groups
  • Stir it up! was inspired by successful peer-education programs around Australia


To enable us to reach local communities, particularly harder-to-reach and more vulnerable groups, Stir it up! uses a peer-education framework. Peer-education is based on the principle that community members learn better from other members who are of similar age and background as themselves.

How Stir it up! Works:

  • Volunteers receive their initial training through TAFE Illawarra Outreach Unit. At the completion of the course, participants receive a nationally recognised TAFE qualification
  • Training is free and includes healthy eating principles, presentation skills, Occupational Health & Safety and food safety and hygiene.
  • Peer-educators then partner with community, government and non-government organisations to run healthy eating activities, such as:
    • Facilitating cooking groups
    • Healthy lunchbox, healthy snack foods and healthy party food talks and demonstrations at playgroups and preschools
    • Establishment of a community garden at a playgroup
    • Cooking lessons, for example, for socially isolated older men
    • Healthy eating talks at Women's Health Centres, Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) community groups and other community organisations
    • Volunteer peer-educators are supported with ongoing training, resources and support


  • Stir it up! has an Advisory Group which provides strategic advice and support
  • The Project Team is from the Health Promotion Service (Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District) and Healthy Cities Illawarra
  • Host Organisations host Stir it up! activities. Some examples are: Barnardos South Coast, Baptist Community Services, playgroups, preschools, primary schools including Warilla North and Cringila Public Schools, Northcott Disability Services, Illawarra Womens’ Health Centre, University of Wollongong, the ISLHD Mental Health Services, Coomaditchie Community Centre and Illawarra In Home Support.
  • Peer-educators are volunteers who plan and implement healthy eating activities in the community
  • Mentors are also volunteers who are paired with a peer-educator to provide encouragement and support
  • Partner organisations underpin Stir it up! by providing in-kind support in the form of training, volunteer registration including insurance cover and volunteer screening processes and training venues.

Outcomes and Evaluation

Stir it up! commenced in August 2010. In first 18 months:

  • Trained 32 peer-educators and 24 mentors
  • > 120 healthy eating activities have been conducted in the Illawarra region
  • Estimated audience > 1800 community members
  • ~35 Host Organisations involved
  • Number of organisations represented on Advisory Group = 14
  • There are currently 10 requests in the system
  • 13 new volunteers commenced training as peer-educators in May and a further 12 in May 2013.


  • Development of skills, knowledge and confidence of volunteer peer-educators to deliver healthy eating messages to the community
  • An increase in the skills, knowledge and confidence of community members to implement healthy eating messages
  • An increase in the reach and number of healthy eating message to hard-to-reach communities
  • Successful partnership model including links to services within and beyond ISLHD.

Case Study

Vickie is a stay-at home mum with 7 children. When she applied to join Stir it up! she was not able to speak in front of the small group of 12 fellow volunteers.

She completed the Stir it up! training and then conducted several talks at her own playgroup to develop her confidence in a familiar environment. She then felt confident enough to speak to a playgroup from another organisation. She then progressed to providing very well received talks at local public schools. At the project launch in November 2010 she spoke in front of 120 people about how Stir it up! has changed her life.

She related how proud her children are of her; how they have been inspired to study and do their homework because they have seen her studying and working. She has made many changes to her family’s eating pattern to make it more healthy. Stir it up! has had a huge impact on her self-esteem and confidence after being out of the workforce for 15 years.

Vickie has demonstrated her Stir it up! skills in front of Sharon Bird MP and David Farmer at a Wollongong City Council event and has gone on to complete other TAFE courses. She is just one of our inspirational peer-educators in the Stir it up! project.


The sustainability of Stir it up! is enhanced through strong partnerships with key partner organisations, community groups and ISLHD services. Stir it up! is funded by the Health Promotion Service (ISLHD) and Healthy Cities Illawarra. Funding for project resources has recently been received from the Australian Government via Wollongong Council's Healthy Communities Initiative Program.

The statistics on the number and reach of Stir it up! activities speak for themselves and positive changes have been seen in individual peer-educators and their family's eating patterns and within the communities they have spoken to.


Health Promotion Officer
Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District
Phone: 02 4221 6777

Community Programs Coordinator
Healthy Cities Illawarra
Phone: 02 4226 5000

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