The Benalla Grow Your Own Wicking Garden Beds project has taken out the VicHealth Promoting Health Equity Award.
Benalla Health dietician Kathryn McQualter was a major part of the project, which supports disadvantaged families to grow their own fruit and vegetables.
‘‘The project started when a volunteer at St Vincent de Paul, thought that rather than handing out food we should be helping people to grow their own,’’ Ms McQualter said.
‘‘So she did some research on wicking garden beds and we started working together on it, and that was two years ago.
‘‘Originally we had planned to do about 15 garden beds, but because the project was so popular Tomorrow Today gave us an extra grant and we’ve got up to 51 garden beds now.’’
VicHealth chief executive officer Jerril Rechter said the VicHealth Award winners demonstrated the huge range, value and influence of health promotion in Victoria.
‘‘I congratulate all the finalists, highly commended and winning projects for continuing the world-leading health promotion work Victoria is renowned for,’’ Ms Rechter said.
‘‘This year’s winners have embedded health promotion into their efforts to improve the health and wellbeing of their communities — and Victoria is all the better for it.’’
The Grow Your Own project engages with some of the most financially and socially disadvantaged people in Benalla, and has provided resources and education to enable residents to increase their food security and save money.
Ms McQualter said the wicking garden beds were a bit different to a generic vegie patch.
‘‘They have a water reservoir at the bottom, so when the roots have grown long enough they actually take the water from underneath,’’ she said.
‘‘That saves water, if you water on the top a lot is wasted from evaporation especially in the summer, so it’s much more economical in terms of water usage.
‘‘Nearly everything (can be grown in one of these beds), we’ve had all kinds of things, lettuce, spinach, strawberries, watermelon, beans, beetroot, capsicums, a bit of everything.’’
Ms McQualter worked with a variety of community partners to make the project successful, including St Vincent de Paul, Beechworth Corrections, the Tomorrow Today Foundation, the Department of Housing, and Benalla P-12 College.
The next stage in the project is looking at new designs for the garden beds, however, before that can happen new sponsors and funding-partners are required.
‘‘At the moment we’re just looking at perhaps redesigning the garden beds a little bit, as we were using apple crates and we’re looking at making them a bit more sustainable, but we need a bit more funding,’’ she said.
●If you are interested in supporting this valuable project you can express your interest by popping into the Benalla Community Health Centre on Coster St.