This looks like an interesting project, using digital connections to engage the wider community in developing innovative solutions to a public health problem.

If you’re interested in making a pitch to VicHealth’s Seed Challenge, which aims to boost fruit and vegetable consumption in Victoria, you’d better get your running shoes on – the deadline is Friday.

Two pitches will receive up to $100,000 each and the opportunity to work with the Australian Centre for Social Innovation, according to Jerril Rechter, CEO of VicHealth.

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How do we improve fruit and vegetable supply and access?

Jerril Rechter, CEO – VicHealth

The Victorian Health Promotion Foundation has put a total of $200,000 for two projects on the table with an invite for anyone to help solve the ever-growing problem of food security and healthy eating culture.

VicHealth has posed the question via its Seed Challenge, which invites applications from anyone who thinks they can come up with a digital, sustainable, forward-thinking idea which motivate the agriculture, social innovation, digital and health sectors to work together.

Applications for the Seed Challenge close this Friday. The question asked is: “How do we improve fruit and vegetable supply and access, as well as develop and promote a culture of healthy eating in Victoria?”

Only one in 10 Victorian adults meet the recommended minimum daily intake for vegetables and only half meet the recommended daily minimum intake of fruit.

Making a habit of consuming fruit and vegetables as part of our daily diets can help prevent obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

The Seed Challenge is about finding a way to work together to turn the tide on these devastating illnesses. We need to revive the value once placed on fruit and vegetables, so that the healthy choice is the easiest and the most desirable one.

While most of us know eating fresh is vital for good health, there are so many more factors that play a role in what we eat: it’s not just all about education.

Other factors that influence our diets include:

  • how secure and reliable our supply of fruit and vegetables is
  • our access to affordable fruit and vegetables
  • whether the culture encourages eating plentiful fruit and vegetables.

These factors don’t all occur in isolation and any change in one of these areas will probably influence the others.

Take culture for example. If our society supported healthy eating, it would be the norm to:

  • be surrounded by positive health promotion messages in media and marketing, with unhealthier foods rarely promoted
  • have people value, understand and make the time to prepare and enjoy healthier foods
  • be a part of communities that are socially inclusive and support healthy eating.

But unfortunately this is not the case and poor nutrition and obesity remains a major health challenge now and into the future. A new approach is needed and this is where the VicHealth Seed Challenge comes in.

By working with The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI) and providing a platform for people from all sectors (rather than just the nutrition field), we hope to tackle these issues head on.

Aside from the noble cause of improving the health of Victoria, the two brightest ideas will receive up to $100,000 each and work closely with TACSI to implement their idea.

First and foremost, we are looking for collaboration between groups who may not have previously worked together, brought together by the common goal of improving food supply, access and culture in Victoria. The only other thing we ask is that the entries have a strong focus on digital communication.

Further information, including the Seed Challenge Background Document, real-life examples of other initiatives happening in this space, and resources from the Sowing the Seed: information exchange event held on 1 May, are available on the Seed Challenge website.

Any group or individual who has an idea that can address the Challenge question (and meets the eligibility criteria), particularly those working in nutrition, the fruit and vegetable industries, the digital world, researchers, social innovators, entrepreneurs, and related sectors are strongly encouraged to apply by 2pm Friday 24 May.

Go to: http://www.seedchallenge.vic.gov.au/page/how-to-apply2

• Jerril Rechter is CEO of VicHealth

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