A Western Australian not-for-profit group has taken a collaborative approach to ensure a shortage of funding doesn’t jeopardise its work with indigenous children and remote communities.
EON Foundation operates in 17 remote communities in the Pilbara and Kimberley, but has a waiting list of more than 20 groups asking for its help to establish edible gardens and use nutrition-based programs to promote healthier lifestyles and prevent diseases.
“The fact is, in many remote communities the amount of fresh food available is very low and very expensive, so diets consist of highly processed, sugary, fatty, salty and generally frozen or canned food,” EON Foundation chair and founder Caroline de Mori said.
Ms de Mori told Business News that, after realising this year would be the first in the foundation’s decade of operation it could not afford to help new communities, it decided to try a more collaborative approach.
“Our growth has been exponential until this year ... so that was a big signal,” Ms de Mori said.
As part of seeking new connections, EON Foundation has struck up a partnership with the Telethon Kids Institute.
“We know that up to 70 per cent of children in remote communities start school with hearing loss and ... the link (between) nutrition and hearing loss is increasingly understood and recognised as a major factor,” Ms de Mori said.
“We’re very keen to undertake a very close collaboration that will involve some research on the direct link between poor nutrition, which is a disease of poverty and poor hearing, which leads to a lifetime of lost opportunity.”
EON has also met with organisations offering similar nutrition programs – Diabetes WA, Foodbank WA, The Western Australian School Canteen Association, and the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation.
Ms de Mori said despite an acknowledgement that every $1 spent preventing disease saved $8 later in treatment costs, organisations offering nutrition-based approaches to disease prevention were finding it difficult to raise money, particularly for programs in remote and regional areas.
“In terms of funding it’s just evaporated for all of us,” she said.
“We were shocked to find that the effect of this has been that EON remains the only one that has an on-the-ground presence in communities. The others are ... providing resources virtually in an online area.”
Ms de Mori anticipates the organisations will share teaching and learning resources, an approach that could save both time and money.
“It’s very tempting to work in silos,” she said.
“We (decided) to try and ensure we’re coordinating our messages.”