A food distribution centre in Ballarat is needed urgently to relieve increasing pressure on charities providing food relief, Ballarat Foundation staff say.
The philanthropic organisation is campaigning to create a Ballarat Food Security Centre to improve the distribution of food to the region’s charities and create facilities for food education.
More than 12 per cent of Ballarat’s population access emergency food relief services each year, according to Ballarat Community Health research.
Ballarat Foundation chief executive Matt Jenkins said the centre would provide an immediate response to a growing problem, but would later focus on prevention.
“Stage one is filling a gap in the system but moving forward it is about how you then change that into generational food security and education,” he said.
If you can pay your bills and put food in your tummy you can achieve anything in life.Wayne Weaire, Ballarat Foundation
Purchasing land in the Ballarat West Employment Zone and construction of a 1000 square metre food distribution warehouse is identified as stage one of the project. The facility is expected to be distributing food to charities by the end of 2019 if funding is secured.
The Ballarat Foundation has called for a $1.5 million investment from the state government and will contribute the remaining $2 million for the centre to be operational.
A further $4 million will be sought from state government for future stages to begin in 2020 for completion by the end of 2022.
Future stages will include a food retail social enterprise delivering skills training and employment for vulnerable youth, a commercial kitchen for production of meals and training and a community grocer providing food relief packages.
A city farm and kitchen garden, an education centre and food waste and composting facilities are also part of planning for future stages.
The Ballarat Foundation released initial concept designs for the BWEZ site on Friday, with further consultation with stakeholders to be completed.
Mr Jenkins said the establishment of the food security centre would improve access and distribution of fresh food to charities working in food relief.
Access to fresh food was revealed as a priority for those experiencing food insecurity in a Ballarat Community Health report released in April.
Of the 100 people accessing emergency food relief surveyed for the Impacts of Food Insecurity in Ballarat report, more than 70 per cent believed they should be eating more fresh foods but said they were too expensive to buy.
The Victorian Liberal-National Coalition has promised to contribute $1.5 million to stage one of the Ballarat Food Security Centre if elected in November.
“There has been a 45 per cent increase in the amount of food coming in in this area over the last three years, so there is a desperate need for the infrastructure,” deputy leader Peter Walsh said.
Australian food relief organisation Foodbank announced in April it would partner with the Ballarat Foundation to run the site. It will be the first Foodbank hub in regional Victoria.