Holly Konopka is intent on making a difference to young lives through food.

Every month, the 21-year-old takes her passion for nutrition – and the positive impact it can have on mental health – to headspace Port Adelaide, as a member of the Youth Reference Group.

Holly brings lived experience of an eating disorder, and an undergraduate degree in health science, to the voluntary role which she says has strengthened her resolve to support others facing similar challenges.

“Understanding the effect nutrition has on mental health is what enabled my recovery,’’ she says.

“I started looking at food for its nourishing value and realised you can eat certain foods to be happy,  not just to be a certain body type.

“I think that’s often overlooked in dietetics; people go to a dietician because they want to lose weight, but why not go because you want to be happy and fulfilled?’’

The YRG has given Holly a platform to speak up, learn from others and the drive to chase her goal.

“I am learning so much more about mental health, and the experience I’m gaining from all aspects of the YRG will really enable me to pursue my passion.

“The influence nutrition has on mental health has not really been fully mapped out, and I want to explore that unknown territory.’’

The YRG is made up of young people of varying ages, genders and cultural backgrounds. The group works with headspace to ensure young people’s voices and opinions are heard, and that resources are put to the best use. Members also represent headspace at events.

“I’ve done different types of volunteer work since I was 14 and I’ve finally found something that’s the right fit for me,’’ Holly says.

“The feeling I get from doing this is the main thing that drives me, but there’s also the secondary things that come with it: friendships, career and travel opportunities. Volunteering is something I would recommend to everybody.’’

*Holly’s role with headspace Port Adelaide is being highlighted as part of National Volunteer Week, an annual celebration to acknowledge the generous contribution of our nation’s volunteers. The theme this year is Give a Little. Change a lot. This represents the millions of volunteers who make a profound impact in their communities through giving a little time.