THE Mildura region may be known for its fruit production, but very few of its residents are gobbling enough fruit and veg.Just 9.6 per cent of females and 4.4 per cent of males in Victoria's food bowl are eating the recommended five serves of vegetables a day, the Victorian Population Healthy Survey has revealed.
More than half Mildura's adult population is overweight, with this rise in obesity rates strongly linked to poor nutrition.
The Mildura Healthy Communities Partnership says lacking food security is to blame and has proposed a local Food Hub to combat the problem.
Partnership coordinator Andrea Sloane said Mildura ranks in the top eight food insecure towns in Victoria, not good enough considering its rich agricultural surrounds.
"With the existing economic systems in Mildura, a large number of people are on welfare which puts strain on them in terms of their ability to purchase food on a regular basis," she said.
"Access to food and to public transport to access food outlets are problems. Education too – priorities in terms of what types of food you should purchase.
"We live in a food bowl in Mildura but there's quite a lot of produce that doesn't find its way to the community.
"We need to find out how we can get second grade and left-over fruit and vegetables to local people."
Ms Sloane said the region's Food Hub would consider how more locally grown produce could find its way into Mildura rather than ending up on the scrap heap or with a higher price tag after being transported to Melbourne and back.
This would mean looking at the way locals could access fresh produce cheaply and getting producers involved, she said.
"We have farmers markets, but not on a regular basis – monthly or bimonthly," Ms Sloane said.
"Hospitals, aged-care institutions and restaurants could perhaps purchase local produce and support local farmers.
"We could create a learning centre which teaches people to understand growing produce organically, or make a community garden.
"We could support producers who have second grade produce they can't get rid of," she added, noting that dumping of excess citrus had been a problem in the region.
Ms Sloane said a couple of local food businesses were already sourcing local produce.
The Food Hub would encourage more to get on board as well as bringing some organisation to those already involved, she said.
A meeting to look at possible avenues for the Hub will take place on Thursday.
Those interested in attending should phone (03) 5018 8524.