In what is a new frontier for the Food is Free Laneway, it has become an incorporated association, meaning it has charity status and can now apply for funding and receive public donations – and it’s looking to expand.
Founder Lou Ridsdale says the incorporation, which was largely achieved with the assistance of Ballarat Council and volunteer efforts, means the movement can start looking to broaden the horizons of its offerings to the people of the city.
“It’s reached the point where we can do so much more, so many more impactful things. While it’s great to have food, we want to do a lot more, particularly with disadvantaged groups, whether it’s teaching them self-sufficiency in their own yards or balconies, cooking lessons and a lot more beyond that. We want to do it with meaning and have an impact on the community.”
Ballarat City Council granted Food is Free a plot of land at the Western Oval as a three-month trial. Ms Ridsdale hopes the plot will lead to bigger things, including a free, ungated community garden.
“Moving to The Western Oval shortly will hopefully open up more of that space to be a green hub, a community hub above and beyond sharing food. We want to do something that’s accessible to all people, 24 hours a day. We’ll keep the gardening element here, the seed boxes and seedlings; but we’ll have the food dropoffs and pickups there. It’s evolved into a system that, without too much overthinking, has become its own special being. The fact that people have donated all the items in the laneway, I never expected or predicted that.”
Food is Free is also having a $10 fundraiser benefit at the Eastern Hotel on Thursday April 21, with veteran –indeed 82-year-old – international comedian Lynn Ruth Miller donating her time and all the proceeds to pay for the Food is Free summer water bill, which was substantial due to the drought.
“She’s the oldest female stand up comedian in the world; she’s been on Britain’s Got Talent; travels the world doing her comedy, does burlesque dancing - she’s like Joan Rivers rolled into Phyllis Diller.”