By Max Davies

THE Whittlesea Food Collective is this week starting its first olive harvest celebration, bringing people together to learn new skills with an olive theme.

The olive harvest will feature five main activities, beginning today and finishing on May 14 with a celebration of the City of Whittlesea’s olive harvest and community wellbeing.

Hosted by Whittlesea Community Connections, the activities will be in partnership with 3000acres, an organisation focused on encouraging communities to grow fresh, healthy food and transform land into useful community spaces.

Whittlesea Food Collective coordinator Oreste Pompetti said the activities were designed to encourage people to connect while taking advantage of the abundance of olive trees in the municipality.

“We’re trying to bring people together around olives, whether it’s going for a walk, or harvesting olives, or gardening it’s just about social connection,” he said.

“We also want to promote good mental health and wellbeing and encourage people to think about mindfulness, and how these sorts of activities can help with clearing the mind.”

The activities begin today, May 3, with a neighbourhood walk and fruit tree mapping around Thomastown and surrounding areas.

On May 7, community members are invited to take part in olive harvesting in Thomastown and in locations where olive trees are growing in places such as nature strips.

On May 10, there is an olive pressing demonstration and workshop at Whittlesea Food Collective, with 3000acres’ mini olive press to be used to teach attendees how olive oil is harvested. Fresh falafel wraps will be provided for lunch.

On May 12, the olive oil will be used to make natural soap at an olive oil soap making workshop at Whittlesea Food Collective.

All activities will culminate in a bigger celebration at Whittlesea Food Collective from 11am to 2pm on May 14, with food, coffee, DJ music, dabkeh dancing, prizes, kids activities, workshops and a self-care circuit among the activities on offer.

Performances including traditional Indian music and Soil Voices Singing Group will also take place.

Mr Pompetti said the activities would help to spread understanding of activities and groups that operated in the City of Whittlesea and encourage people to take part.

“What we’re hoping for is information tables from local groups, talking about what they do in the community and giving people an opportunity to take part in something they might not have known about,” he said.

“We want people to engage through the Whittlesea Food Collective because food is a way to feel safe and find refuge.

“We have lots of people who come here from different backgrounds so we’re also hoping that people can talk about similar foods from their home countries and just engage in conversation with community members.”

The Whittlesea Food Collective hopes the olive event will be the catalyst for other similar events in the future, with the potential to teach people about preparing food for other cuisines such as Italian tomato sauce.

For more information, people can contact Mr Pompetti by emailing contact@foodcollective.org.au or calling 0460 446 856.

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