Bowen one of three locations for healthy eating initiative
AS THE home of the nation's largest winter vegetable growing region and schools eager to promote healthy eating, Bowen is the ideal location to launch a new statewide pilot program.
Bowen State School has been selected as one of three pilot locations in Queensland for the $1.7 million Pick of the Crop initiative, with the launch of the project taking place at the school on Friday.
The project will help schools to work with growers to boost fruit and vegetable intake in children.
This could include bringing growers into classrooms, reinforcing learning through school gardens and offering healthy tuckshop menus.
Stackelroth Farms co-owner Michelle O'Regan said the farm already participated in various programs to promote growing as well as eating healthy fruit and vegetables, so it was great to have extra support to continue that work.
"The produce is well sought-after and we've got it on our doorstep," she said.
"Healthy fruit and vegetables will help us have healthy minds and healthy bodies."
Pick of the Crop is a pilot program run by Health and Wellbieng Queensland and includes funding for the appointment of a Pick of the Crop project co-ordinator to be based at Bowen State School.
The project co-ordinator will work with state primary schools across the Bowen, Ayr, Home Hill and Whitsunday areas, to develop individual school action plans to increase students' access to vegetables and fruit as well as strengthen relationships with Bowen and Burdekin growers.
Participating schools can access grants of up to $5000 for small projects that support the implementation of Pick of the Crop.
Bowen State School principal Christien Payne said the community was excited to be involved in Pick of the Crop.
"This program is such a good opportunity for our schools and communities to build on actions to promote healthy eating," he said.
"The benefits will not only be felt through stronger school connections with farmers in the region, but also in our classrooms, across the whole school environment and for our families."
Health and Wellbeing Queensland chief executive Dr Robyn Littlewood most children currently did not meet recommendations for healthy eating, with only six per cent of 8-11 year olds consuming enough vegetables.
"This is about improving the nutrition and health of our children and doing it in partnership with our farmers promoting local agriculture and local produce," she said.
Bowen was the ideal place to launch the program as it had access to top produce and educators who supported the vision, Dr Littlewood said.
"We looked at the whole state and this was the first that said yes, yes, yes," she said.
"It just makes sense.
"This is about kids understanding where fruit and vegetables are grown and how they're grown, and taking that home.
"Schools are doing amazing work and it's about us supporting them."
Bowen Gumlu Growers Association president Carl Walker said teaching children to experience and enjoy vegetables and fruit from an early age would also help them develop healthy eating habits for life.
"The Bowen Gumlu region is the largest winter vegetables growing region in Australia, supplying high-quality healthy produce for the nation and for the world," he said.
"It's important that we can teach our children where the food is coming from, and why it is so important to eat healthy.
"It's showing them that veggies can be yummy to eat and can be part of an exciting meal for them.
"This is good for kids and it also helps our local economy to be sustainable."
Pick of the Crop is set to roll out across Queensland with a further two pilot locations soon to be announced.
The project is set to reach up to 60 primary schools and 19,000 students across Queensland in 2020-21.