Vegie project sprouts healthy eating ideas

Children in a Northern Territory community have turned their hands to growing a tropical spinach-like vegetable, aibika, as part of a new trial to encourage healthy eating in remote areas.

Belyuen School, about 120km west of Darwin, is the first Indigenous community to trial the spinach as part of a vegetable patch project with Charles Darwin University researchers.

CDU horticulture lecturer Emily Hinds said the project promoted the nutritional, social and economic benefits of traditional vegetables in Papua New Guinea and northern Australia.

“People in remote communities have limited access to nutritious fresh vegetables and fruit,” she said.

“They are increasingly eating more energy-dense, store-bought food and less traditional foods due to reduced contact with homelands and bush tucker.”

Ms Hinds said the project aimed to understand and increase the role of traditional vegetables in isolated parts of PNG, and how this information could be transferred into remote schools and community gardens in the NT.

“We not only teach children how to plant aibika, but also how to cook it,” she said. “A pot-to-plate education is vital when encouraging families to incorporate a new food in their diets.”

A successful trial at Belyuen could see the project expand into other NT communities.

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