Students sprint for food insecurity solutions in Bendigo

A group of clever, caring La Trobe students have put their minds to helping alleviate food insecurity in Bendigo during the first La Trobe Rural Health Innovation Sprint.

Students from a range of disciplines have spent an intensive few days exploring the complexities of the issue locally.

“It isn’t just about making sure people don’t go without food, it’s more than that,” says sprint convenor Dr Brad Hodge, citing finance, healthy eating and social connections as factors.

“And sometimes we just need to take a few steps back from the challenge in order to really understand it.”

Dr Brad Hodge sparks ideas.

The group met representatives from Bendigo Foodshare, the City of Greater Bendigo and Haven Home Safe before heading to a local neighbourhood house to hear people’s lived experience of not having enough to eat.

“It shattered me to find out that food insecurity can happen to anyone, from any background and walk of life,” says Bachelor of Health Sciences student Vi. “It’s a big issue in Bendigo that needs to be addressed, but not many people know about it.”

On Wednesday the group presented its many brilliant ideas for tackling the issue to council and welfare groups, in an effort to stimulate real action.

“One idea that stands out for me is pay-it-forward supermarkets, to give people the ability to give to others,” Vi says. That’s where customers agree to round up the cost of their groceries to the nearest dollar, with those excess cents accumulating for others registered to receive assistance.

The sprint is the first of many planned by the La Trobe Rural Health School to explore improving health and wellbeing in greater Bendigo. It continues until Friday, funded by the Vichealth Reimagining Health grants and co-presented with Healthy Greater Bendigo.

For Bachelor of Health Sciences student Vi, the La Trobe Innovation Sprint is a great way to wrap up year two of her studies, and an opportunity to gain insight into public health and network with others. But there’s no long uni break ahead. Next, she’s signed up for a two-week virtual public health study tour of Indonesia along with university students from around Australia. Then, she’s looking forward to an induction for placement in January.

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