Garden project a blooming good idea

UNITINGCARE Tasmania and Brighton Council have joined forces to not only educate struggling families on the nutritional benefits of fresh food but also to help them develop the skills to grow their own produce.

The innovative partnership – which is also being supported by a six-month Work for the Dole project – will see community gardens developed on council land located adjacent to UnitingCare’s facilities at Old Beach and Gagebrook.

From left, UnitingCare Tasmania CEO Lindy O’Neill, Work for the Dole participant Macuea Bona, Brighton Mayor Tony Foster and Council’s manager-development services James Dryburgh prepare the first garden bed at Old Beach.

Work for the Dole participants are undertaking the initial plantings with fruit trees and vegetable patches currently taking shape at Old Beach before they move onto Gagebrook.

Once up and running community members will be invited to participate in the program to supplement the fresh food which is currently available through UnitingCare’s emergency food relief program, which is supported by Second Bite. Second Bite redistributes surplus fresh food to community food programs throughout Australia.

UnitingCare Tasmania chief executive officer Lindy O’Neill said she was excited by the prospect of seeing local residents getting their hands dirty by growing their own food and having the opportunity to learn how to prepare it.

“We know that many of the people we work with not only do not know how to grow food but have never leant how to prepare it,’’ she said.

“But we understand the importance of fresh food in the diet of young people for things such as brain development and that fresh food early in life can give children the best chance at a fulfilling future.’’

Ms O’Neill said there was also the therapeutic value associated with activities such as gardening and the opportunity for parents and their children to work together on their own patch.

She also said the project would provide valuable skills for the Work for the Dole participants as they seek to prepare themselves to enter the workforce.

“Hopefully over time participants from the local area will also be engaged and will have an opportunity to develop some pre-employment skills as well as being exposed to a working environment.’’

Ms O’Neill said UnitingCare Tasmania and the council had developed a long standing relationship over the last two decades aimed at supporting struggling families in the region.

“The council is committed to having us in the area and is looking at assisting us to further develop our services and programs in the region.’’

“It is a model of assistance and support we would like to further develop with other councils but that is a little constrained by funding (at present).’’

Brighton Mayor Tony Foster said Council was excited by the potential of the initiative.

“Council have built a strong relationship with Uniting Care over the years and we’re very happy to be able to support this latest project,’’ he said.

“It’s increasingly important in the modern world with our time constraints and the way we receive our food, that we keep the skills and understanding of generating our own healthy food.

“It can save everyone money and make them feel better.

“Hopefully such skills get taken back to the gardens at people’s homes.

“As well as all the other benefits, the gardens will improve the amenity of a local area,” Cr Foster said.