Promoting the importance of healthy eating is a major focus for Benalla Health.
Director of Community Health Neil Stott said that a wide range of programs were offered in the community to ensure that people took a holistic approach to their wellbeing.
‘‘Benalla Health is tackling issues of poor food access by working with the community to make healthy food an easier choice,’’ Mr Stott said.
‘‘Our dietitians and health-promotion team are working closely with Benalla Rural City Council through the Central Hume Primary Care Partnership to identify potential healthy eating initiatives, which can improve healthy food access.
‘‘Healthy eating is essential for children’s growth and in Australia, 10per cent of disease is caused by not eating enough fruit and vegetables.
‘‘Poor eating habits can lead to being overweight or obese.’’
Senior dietitian Kathryn McQualter said in Benalla, 54.5 per cent of adults did not eat enough fruit and vegetables (VicHealth 2013) and 52.4per cent of adults are overweight and/or obese.
This is higher than the Victorian average of 49.8 per cent in Victoria (VicHealth 2013).
In the Hume region, more than two thirds (66.9 per cent) of children aged four to 12 years do not eat enough fruit and vegetables (Central Hume Primary Care Partnership 2012).
‘‘Our work has shown that the rising obesity rates and people not eating enough fruit and vegetables can be caused by poor access to food,’’ Ms McQualter said.
‘‘This may include limited transport options, difficulty accessing healthy foods, and low income, all issues which we are working hard to address.’’
Benalla Health is also involved in the Latching Onto Breastfeeding Campaign, another Central Hume Primary Care Partnership initiative.
‘‘This campaign focuses on making Benalla a place where mothers feel supported to breastfeed, and what partners, family, friends, workplaces, health services and businesses can do to support women to breastfeed,’’ Ms McQualter said.
The health service also offers Food Cents, a program which offers free cooking sessions for kids and parents.
These are held regularly at Waminda Community House with a second venue in the east of Benalla currently being explored.
‘‘We have also been able to make significant progress with the Small Plates project, which has encouraged restaurants and eateries to offer smaller portion sizes on their menus, and this has been embraced by the community,’’ Ms McQualter said.
‘‘Another project, Benalla’s wicking garden beds, is going particularly well.
‘‘This is a joint initiative of Benalla Health and St Vincent de Paul’s Society Benalla and aims to reduce the reliance on emergency food relief, improve community connectivity and increase peoples knowledge, confidence and skills to grow their own food at home.’’
It is hoped there will be more than 50 garden beds in place by the end of this year.
●For more information on Benalla Healths programs, go to benallahealth.org.au