7 October 2013
Food swaps, community gardens, and increased opportunities to buy fresh and healthy food could improve healthy eating in children across Benalla Rural City, according to a recent food security scan.
The research, 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 over the next 4 years. It investigated the difficulties faced by families in Benalla in accessing healthy food, in light of the Victorian Population Health Survey which found that 8.4% of the rural city’s residents had experienced food insecurity
Food security can be defined as “the availability of and assured access to sufficient food that is nutritionally adequate, culturally acceptable, safe, and which is obtained in socially acceptable ways.”
The scan revealed that a single parent in the municipality would need $275 per fortnight to buy healthy food to feed their family. The lack of public transport or fresh food outlets in some areas was also identified as a risk for food security.
Council and community representatives, health professionals and community workers gathered at a morning tea last week to discuss solutions to the food security problems experienced by some in the community. The following options from the scan were considered:
- Increasing connectivity between residents and food through initiatives such as food swaps and community gardens.
- Increasing fruit and vegetables in “food deserts” (where there is no fresh food outlet within 500m) through increasing healthy food options in outlets, linking food businesses with local food producers, and looking at delivery of healthy foods.
- Increasing the number of healthy food programs run in partnership between local government, health agencies, businesses and 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,” said Benalla Rural City Council Mayor Barbara Alexander, who attended the reopening of the Waminda House Community Garden last month. “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.”
Kathryn McQualter, Dietitian at Benalla Health, said: “When talking to families, many know that they should be eating more fruit and vegetables. But to make that choice easier we need to ensure that fresh food is available and affordable for all families.”
Anyone interested in promoting healthy eating in the community can contact Ms McQualter on (03) 5761 4500.