AN ANONYMOUS investor with a “big beautiful heart” has footed the $300,000-odd bill to ensure Ballarat’s Food is Free program has a home in perpetuity.
Food is Free is a global community project where people grow their own food and share it among themselves. In May, Ballarat co-ordinator Lou Ridsdale signed a 12-month lease at the co-op’s 305 Ripon Street South home, but with the property up for sale, she feared she would be forced to leave once it was sold.
The seeds, gardening and food drop-off and collection currently operates from a laneway nearby the property, set up near the corner of Ripon Street South and Warrior Place.
Ms Ridsdale had previously told The Courier she was looking for a “miracle” to help secure tenancy at the property, which was listed for a sale price between $295,000 and $315,000.
“Thrilled is an understatement,” Ms Ridsdale said of her reaction to the good news.
“The property is actually being sold and it’s going to an investor, which means I get to stay on. It’s a real sense of permanency.
“She's specifically bought it so Food is Free can stay on in Ballarat.”
Ms Ridsdale said her investor had been someone who “enjoys the laneway” and had been following the issue on Facebook and The Courier.
“She’s just a concerned local citizen with a big beautiful heart. She wants to remain anonymous.”
Ms Ridsdale said while the seeds and gardening aspect of the project would remain in the laneway, the food swapping would be moved in November to Western Oval for reasons of traffic management and safety.
The new location would also be more visible and lit at night, as well as having more parking availability.
Ms Ridsdale also has big plans for the future and hopes to bring the concepts of free food and community connectedness to people in need.
“It’s such a big relief. I have so many more plans for Food is Free and now I can press forward with assuredness with what we're doing,” she said.
“Down the track I'd like to expand and do something with hospitals, disability groups, and all sorts of community groups such as prisons.”
The Food is Free laneway has received huge support in Ballarat, with its Facebook page currently sitting at 10,762 likes and with scores of colourful photos
Ms Ridsdale has previously described Ballarat’s many laneways as “blank canvasses”, with projects like Food is Free helping to beautify the city.