A new cookbook, rich in Gippsland stories and recipes, aims to raise awareness around mental health issues faced by the farmers and food producers from across the region.

With the support of a $30,000 grant from the Gippsland Primary Health Network, Gippslandia, a community-focused not-for-profit publication, has produced its first cookbook titled ‘Book of Life: Recipes & Stories from across Gippsland’.

The cookbook showcases the resilience of Gippslanders, particularly those in the farming community and Gippslandia officially opened a pop-up store in Traralgon today to sell it.

The grant was made possible through Gippsland PHN’s One Good Community project, funded by the Federal Government’s ‘Empowering our Communities’ initiative, which assists community-led mental health, social and emotional wellbeing and suicide prevention initiatives.

Gippsland PHN Chief Executive Officer, Amanda Proposch, said the Gippslandia initiative recognised the importance of community in building individual resilience during difficult times and the impact this had on improving health and wellbeing.

“One Good Community offers community groups and individuals up to $30,000 towards activities that improve social connectedness, improve access to help and assistance, and decrease isolation and loneliness,” Ms Proposch said.

The grants support community development activities that enable communities to identify and address their own needs and bring people together to connect, learn and contribute in their community through social, educational, recreational and support activities.

Gippslandia General Manager, Michael Duncan, said he wanted to make a “positive difference” in Gippsland, particularly those making a living from the land.

“We know all too well the devastating effects that pricing challenges and the drought have caused to the health and wellbeing of our farmers and their families,” Mr Duncan said.

“While there is no end of negative press surrounding their plight, our outlook for the farming community, and the wider community in general, is that you need to be able to highlight the issues, but do so in a way that builds resilience and creates hope moving forward.”

In July this year, Gippslandia was approached by ‘Behind the Sash’, a documentary television series on Channel 10, which follows four women as they travel the nation and abroad to shine a light on humanitarian issues. HPE Number: DOC/19/0000

Mr Duncan said a partnership with Behind the Sash was an opportunity to have a direct and positive impact on Gippsland’s farming community.

“Through the partnership, we started talking to farmers, producers and chefs around Gippsland with the idea of creating a cookbook,” he said. “The idea of the cookbook stems back to the kitchen being the heart of the home, a place for conversation, and it’s where we’ve sat and listened to farmers tell their stories. We hope these stories will continue to be shared to further reduce the stigma associated with mental health challenges.

“As evidence suggests, talking is a big step towards addressing mental health and there is no better place to chat than over a meal.”

Mr Duncan said the One Good Community grant had enabled Gippslandia to produce a more extensive cookbook than first considered and then expanded it into something that celebrated “the amazing work of Gippsland farmers”.

The ‘Book of Life’ is now available for purchase online and from the new Gippslandia pop-up shop at 27-29 Franklin Street, Traralgon. Gippslandia is a free, quarterly streetpress publication that is distributed throughout Gippsland and into Melbourne.