Healthy eating for country folk

A work placement by Flinders Nutrition and Dietetics students has reflected some healthy changes in a rural South Australian community via the Coorong Healthy Highways project.

Final-year students Alexandra Manolopoulos and Vanessa Fountain conducted a survey on the project, which underpinned a turnaround in community fast-food eating habits in favour of more health alternatives including freshly grilled fish, meat, salads and sushi.

The evaluation report, written by Alex and Vanessa, was well received by the Coorong District Council OPAL (Obesity Prevention and Lifestyle) program which commissioned the project.

Since its launch in October, more than 20 roadhouses, takeaway outlets and cafes, supermarkets, restaurants, bakeries and even local schools have now signed up to Coorong Healthy Highways (CHH), with many reporting a lift in community wellbeing and business turnover as a result.

The CHH project was led by the OPAL team program, supported by the Heart Foundation and State Government’s Health Kids Menu Taskforce. Flinders Nutrition and Dietetics researchers were also involved in formulating this preventative health program now used by several councils around Australia.

Coorong OPAL manager Tanja Morgan said the SA project was driven by research indicating the higher rates of obesity in rural communities were linked to limited access to healthy foods.

“In recent years, community members have told us they’re always seeking out healthier options while travelling around the district, especially for children,” Mrs Morgan says.

Coorong Healthy Highways this year won the State Government’s Minister for Health, Excellence in Public Health Award and was a finalist in the Local Government Professionals Australia, SA Leadership Excellence Awards Program which recognises outstanding achievement and innovation in local government (category: Excellence in Community Services).

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