A project co-run by Snowy Valleys Council and the Murrumbidgee Local Health District has been named as the winner of the 2020 Healthy Town Challenge.
The challenge is an initiative of the Heart Foundation and the NSW Centre for Population Health. It supports regional and rural communities to facilitate healthy living activities to improve the health of their members.
Early last year, five communities – Condobolin, Holbrook, Murwillumbah, Muswellbrook/Denman and Snowy Valleys – received a grant of $15,000 each to bring their proposed projects to life. Today, the Snowy Valleys project, “Move & Grow”, was named the overall challenge winner, with the prize being an additional $5,000.
In the “move” component, community members were invited to join free gentle-exercise and tai-chi classes. When the pandemic hit, online videos replaced in-person classes. Regular classes have since resumed, with around 100 residents attending two classes each week.
For the “grow” component, wicking beds – water-conserving garden beds for growing veggies – were set up at in Tumut’s Richmond park and at the Tumbarumba Creekscape. These are being cared for by council staff and members of the community.
To encourage residents to establish their own gardens, council produced instructional videos and ran a competition to win free soil or aggregate. A total of 75 cubic metres of soil and 50 cubic metres of aggregate were delivered to winning households in Tumut and Tumbarumba.
The additional grant will be used to put in another two wicking beds in the towns of Batlow and Talbingo, which were heavily affected by the 2019 bushfires.
“While all participants in the 2020 Healthy Towns Challenge were impressive, the Snowy Valleys project really stood out as a great example of how a simple idea can motivate a community to be healthier and happier,” said Anna Flynn, the Heart Foundation’s NSW & ACT Heart Health Manager, who was on the judging panel.
“The project came at a time when this community really needed a boost. Parts of the Snowy Valleys Council LGA had been badly affected by bushfires, and then COVID-19 took hold. ‘Move & Grow’ provided some fun and positivity during a difficult year.
“The judging panel particularly liked the way in which this project could be adapted and achieve terrific results even during the strictest lockdown conditions. This is a testament to the commitment and resilience of the project team, as well as to the Snowy Valleys locals.
“The Healthy Town Challenge highlights the important role communities can play in helping residents eat well, move more and sit less, which is vital in reducing the incidence of heart disease – Australia’s single leading cause of death.”
Snowy Valleys Council CEO Matthew Hyde said the program was a fantastic example of council partnering with local communities and stakeholders for healthy outcomes.
“I congratulate our Place Activation team for continuing to deliver high quality and innovative community projects, and our appreciation also goes to the team at Murrumbidgee Local Health District for their support in the coordination and running of the program.”