The Benalla Food Security Scan has identified a need for greater access to healthy food in the community.By Monique Freer
Five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit every day; it is a recommendation familiar to all.
However, recent research by Benalla Rural City and Benalla Health found that more than two-thirds of children aged four to 12 years in the Hume region did not meet these recommended guidelines.
‘‘Parents always tell me that they know fruit and veg is important but often you don’t know how to buy it, you don’t know how to store it or you don’t know how to use it,’’ Benalla Health dietitian Kathryn McQualter said.
The Benalla Food Security Scan: Scoping Healthy Food Access in Benalla, was commissioned by Benalla Rural City Council and Benalla Health as part of the Central Hume Primary Care Partnership commitment to improving healthy eating in children aged 0-12 years during the next four years.
‘‘We knew statewide what was going on, but we didn’t know locally what the issues were,’’ Ms McQualter said.
The research identified that Benalla had the 11th highest rate of food insecurity in 79 local government areas, and 8.4 per cent of the population had run out of food in the past 12 months, unable to afford more.
‘‘We found it cost about $270 a fortnight for a single-parent family to feed children on a healthy diet, so it’s quite a bit of money when you compare it to the pension or you’re a low income earner,’’ Ms McQualter said. ‘‘That doesn’t take into account the petrol or the taxi that you’ve got to use to go shopping.’’
Council and community representatives, health professionals and community workers gathered at a morning tea last month to discuss solutions to the food security problems experienced by many in the community.
‘‘We know that many families right across Australia are struggling to make ends meet, and the council is keen to do what it can to encourage the availability of fresh, nutritious food for our residents,’’ Benalla Rural City Council Mayor Barbara Alexander said.
‘‘This scan gives us the information we need to promote activities and programs that will make it easier for families to provide healthy food for their children.’’
Options discussed included increasing fruit and vegetables in areas without fresh food outlets within 500
Action has already been taken towards implementing these options, with the Waminda Community Garden officially reopened last month.
‘‘About four people approached the neighbourhood house to try and get it going again,’’ Ms McQualter said.
‘‘It was just weeds, literally higher-than-your-knee weeds, so they’ve gutted the place and done a lot of work.’’
Waminda Community Garden has about 18 volunteers, and is filled with vegetables that are beginning to flourish under their attention.
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