Go for Green: Maranoa Regional Council improving local food supply

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Maranoa Regional Council was one of the first Queensland councils to receive funding under the Australian Government’s Healthy Communities Initiative with the Be Healthy Maranoa program. The program aims to improve access to accredited nutrition and physical activity programs, and to encourage people to take steps to improve their health and wellbeing.

Go for Green is an initiative of Be Healthy Maranoa and offers free activities, including cooking workshops, nutrition sessions and shopping tours, to all Maranoa residents. Go for Green also offers catering businesses the opportunity to complete a short TAFE course to learn about providing healthy food and drink choices to their customers. Go for Green is complemented by other nutrition initiatives aimed at creating opportunities for healthy eating and environments that support healthy living.

Located in South West Queensland approximately 480 km west of Brisbane—the Maranoa region covers 58,830 km2 and is home to 13,076 people (Census 2011). Maranoa has a proud and productive rural industry, complemented by expansion in the tourism and energy sectors.

 

Good practice

Go for Green demonstrates:

  • a multi-strategy partnership which provides synergy and sustainability to local government initiatives
  • a whole-of-community approach to creating supportive environments for health and wellbeing
  • development of targeted responses for at-risk groups, such as those who are unemployed, aged and stay-at-home parents
  • effective communication and promotional strategies to promote the program
  • the importance of council workplaces being a role model for other businesses planning on taking up healthy eating programs.

What we did

  • Established a steering committee with representatives from: Maranoa Regional Council; South West Hospital and Health Service; Southern Queensland Institute of TAFE; Department of Human Services; Vital Health; Charleville and Western Areas Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Heath; Darling Downs-South West Medicare Local; Blue
  • Care’s Maranoa Health Enhancement program; Maranoa PCYC; Blue Care; Anglicare; and Carers Queensland.
  • Delivered basic and budget cooking workshops, shopping tours and food label reading sessions to the community.
  • Developed maternal and infant nutrition workshops and information sessions which are delivered to the community on Saturdays to reach working parents.
  • Developed the Catering Flip Guide which is distributed to council’s external and internal caterers, as well as staff within council who are responsible for ordering catering services.
  • Developed resources (Go for Green counter top display and blackboard for food outlets) which make it easy for consumers to identify healthy food options and the food outlet providing the healthiest option.
  • Worked with Southern Queensland Institute of TAFE to create the Go For Green Healthy Food Choices catering course for local caterers looking to diversify their business by providing healthy food options by modifying existing recipes.
  • Through community consultation, chose respected local identities as community ambassadors to support and promote Go for Green. The ambassadors are well known for their promotion of health and wellbeing and represent the target groups of: retirees; stay-at-home mums; people from a culturally and linguistically diverse background; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; and those with disabilities.
  • Promoted Go for Green activities to those most at risk of chronic disease through medical services, clinics and community ambassadors.
  • Created community gardens in Roma, Yuleba, Jackson and Surat.
  • Contributed to the funding of an air-conditioned van equipped with breastfeeding lounge, infant food preparation area, unisex toilet, children’s change facility and water cooler to support parents of young children at community events.
  • Evaluated and monitored the Go for Green activities, including a point-of-sale survey of customers, an online survey of council staff and face-to-face interviews with caterers to measure satisfaction.

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What we have achieved so far

  •  Increased community interest and participation in growing and eating healthy food through community gardens and workshops.
  • Increased awareness of the benefits of an active and healthy lifestyle through the six Be Healthy Maranoa ambassadors.
  • Increased the number of local businesses offering more healthy food options to the community, with 17 food outlets and caterers attending the first Go For Green Healthy Food Choices catering course.
  • Improved support from council for ongoing healthy and active programs following the end of the Healthy Communities Initiative funding.

What we have learnt so far

  • Seasonal conditions have an impact on the level of participation and motivation among community members.
  • Sustaining interest in nutrition by maintaining a healthy diet can be a challenge for some participants.
  • Using human interest stories about real people who have benefited from a healthy lifestyle change is a very effective form of promotion.
  • Stay-at-home mums are hard to involve in programs due to challenges with childcare and difficulties committing to a routine when caring for small children.
  • Succession planning is important to prepare for staff vacancies, changes in community organisations and building community capacity to maintain focus after program funding ends.
  • The importance of ensuring that programs are complementary, use the same branding and reinforce the same messages.
  • High turnover of hospitality staff has impacted on continuity of service.

What we are planning to do next

  • Enhance and expand partnerships with community service providers to ensure sustainability of healthy lifestyle programs.
  • Continue offering the On the Go healthy catering course.
  • Build on partnership with South West Hospital and Health Service’s community nutritionist to incorporate a healthy Go For Green Health Food Choice on catering and food menus to make it easier for consumers to recognise the healthy options.
  • Establish community gardens in more towns across the Maranoa region.
  • Obtain independent evaluation of the Be Healthy Maranoa program to monitor implementation and effectiveness and inform future implementation.

What you can do

  • Work with service providers to identify community champions to assist in promoting your program.
  • Explore barriers to participation faced by potential participants so these can be addressed during the
    program design phase.
 
Council project contact:
Julie Neil
Manager—Community Services
Maranoa Regional Council
T: 07 4624 0802
julie.neil@maranoa.qld.gov.au
 
Natalija Pearn
Healthy Communities Officer
Maranoa Regional Council
T: 07 4624 0820
natalija.pearn@maranoa.qld.gov.au