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Volunteers get a green thumbs-up in Parliament

Debbie Yates holds the Health Care Provider Service Team Volunteers Award as Roz Walker, Claire Fleming, Roberta Kimmins, Sue McLeary, and Pam Shackleton, look on. PHOTO/ELI HILL

Larder battles food wastage

ELI HILL
[email protected]

A group of green-thumbed Martinborough volunteers have been recognised in Parliament’s Grand Hall as part of National Volunteer Week.

The Martinborough Community Health Project took out the Health Care Provider Service Team Volunteers award.

Launched in 2017, the project is behind several of the town’s well-being initiatives.

These include a community garden on Oxford St, a larder at the Martinborough Health Centre, a six-week healthy lifestyle programme, a regular health bulletin, and a weekly walking group.

The project is the brainchild of Martinborough Health Centre’s Pam Shackleton, who wanted to break down barriers to good health.

“One was not having an availability of fresh fruit and vegetables. While this is an amazing little town, we don’t have a supermarket.

“We have a great Four Square but having no supermarket makes it more expensive for some families to buy fresh food.”

And so, the seeds of an idea for a community garden were sown.

A vineyard owner gave the group access to land he wasn’t using, and the group now has 11 garden beds, plus fruit cages.

Chairwoman of the garden committee Debbie Yates, said gardeners tried to keep things simple and mostly planted varieties that people were familiar with.

“It’s currently the winter season so we’re growing kale, cauliflowers, broccoli, cabbage, leeks, spinach, celery and silver beet among other plants.”

Food produced by the garden goes to the Martinborough community larder, another of the group’s initiatives, which gives people access to free fresh food.

“We have food from the garden, but we also have everyone sharing their extras,” Shackleton said “We’ve had so many apples and feijoas and fruit.

“One farmer donated a heap of pumpkins because they’re too little and he couldn’t export them. They would’ve just gone to the pigs.”

Shackleton said the larder was all about reducing wastage.

“Martinborough’s a very productive area and if you only have three to four people in a household, you just can’t use it all.”

Another initiative of the group that has gained popularity is its walking group, which meets every Friday at 9am, outside the Kitchener’s Cafe and Dairy.

Volunteer Sue McLeary said the walking was about more than just keeping fit.

“I can think of four or five people in the group for whom it’s been an absolute lifesaver. I’ve heard several people say if you don’t play sport or have children or go to church its quite hard to find your way into a community.

“We’ve had heaps of friendships building up as we’ve been walking.”

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