Food-sharing service nominated for award

Colac Specialist School student Erik Clayton, front left, works with other students, staff and community food program supporters to provide fruit and vegetables to Colac and district families. The school’s Community Food Program is a nominee in the 2015 National Disability Awards, with winners announced next month.

Colac Specialist School student Erik Clayton, front left, works with other students, staff and community food program supporters to provide fruit and vegetables to Colac and district families.

COLAC Specialist School’s community food program which has helped feed up to 60 families a week is vying for a national disability excellence award.

The CSS Community Food Program teaches students life and leadership skills while also allowing them to be part of a vital community service which provides district families access to fresh fruit and vegetables.

Colac parent Jodie McVilly said she nominated CSS’s Community Food Program for the award so the people behind the well-kept secret received the recognition they deserved.

Mrs McVilly said the program, which has been expanding over the past four years, offered a confidential service to school-based families.

But the anonymity of the service meant the people behind the scenes including students and family engagement co-ordinator Jen Whitwell worked without recognition.

“Having a son at the school, you get to see these things in motion but I didn’t realise how much it’s grown and how much need there is for this service,” Mrs McVilly said.

“It also teaches skills to the VCAL students and when the Lions Club got involved it included the broader community as well.

“It’s great for them all to get the recognition they deserve; it’s an amazing achievement.”

Ms Whitwell said that as the school’s family engagement co-ordinator, her role involved finding a way to source food for struggling school families.

“If people had a need they could come to me, and it started off with families who had an immediate need and at its peak we’ve delivered food to 60 families a week,” she said.

Ms Whitwell said she launched the program four years ago “out of people’s sheds” but the community-wide approach to improve food access for Colac people had been a welcome boost.

She said the school was now using the new Colac and District Foodshare building in Bath Street, which provided a central hub for community services distributing nutritious food to disadvantaged people.

Ms Whitwell said the support of SecondBite, which helped source food, and the Colac Lions Club, which delivered the food to families, had been important to the program’s success.

Mrs McVilly, in her award nomination, said the program’s community partnerships and “interconnectedness” with the Lions, SecondBite, St Laurence Community Services, SkillsConnection, charities and churches also helped the students.

“The CSS Community Food Program continues to have a significant impact on improving the lives of the students and their families living with disability,” she said.

Western Victoria Region MP Gayle Tierney will officially open the new Foodshare building tomorrow.

The CSS community will learn if its nomination for a 2015 National Disability Award is successful on November 25.

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