BALLARAT is taking caring for one another into its own hands through sharing food.
The #FoodIsFree initiative is a global trend in which neighbourhoods share their fresh garden produce, and Ballarat woman Lou Ridsdale has brought the initiative to the laneway beside her house, in Ripon Street’s 300 block.
“I was growing so much in my backyard, I thought I could share it with the community,” she said.
Ms Ridsdale said she combined the #FoodIsFree initiative with the idea of guerrilla gardening – randomly beautifying an area.
She started out small, inviting a few friends over where they set up boxes in the laneway, and it grew from there.
“Within one week, people started dropping things off to contribute,” she said.
“I work from my office and can hear conversations in the laneway. It’s quite funny.
“It takes a while for people to understand it – that the food is there for them to take and enjoy.”
Ms Ridsdale started the laneway project in October, and now has regulars dropping by.
She started a Facebook page last week, which already has close to 1000 likes.
“People have been leaving seeds in my letterboxes, dropping off herbs and fruit. I didn’t expect the generosity,” she said.
“I’m just happy to share what I have. I’m a passionate gardener and have lots of surplus.”
Ms Ridsdale said she cooked most of her meals from her garden, and would like to see the idea spread throughout Ballarat, with laneways all over town laden with produce to share.
“There are so many laneways in Ballarat, they’re blank canvases. The gardens look good and it builds community,” she said.
Ms Ridsdale said the initiative was spreading in Melbourne, but awareness was still growing in regional areas.
“It doesn’t have to be big. It can be as small as leaving a box of broccoli out on top of your letterbox.
“It’s something for the whole community. Whether it’s for a neighbour, someone disadvantaged or whoever, it’s sharing what we have.”
Neighbour Justine Casey knows the benefits of the laneway.
“On Christmas, we realised we didn’t have any celery, so we just came over and grabbed some,” Ms Casey said.
“It’s great for the community – and my son George is learning about food and seeing it grow.”
Ms Ridsdale has received letters of thanks from people in the community for starting the initiative, and has got to know lots more of her neighbours.
“Every day now I get out of bed, let the chooks out and check the laneway to see if there’s been anything left behind, before I have my shower,” she said.
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