The time is ripe for City Of Ballarat's Food Strategy 2019-22 plan.
It's great to see our city so focused on the health and wellbeing for all our citizens in the food realm.
Especially in tackling food insecurity issues, of which we know we have problems, highlighted by the huge uptake of visitors to Food Is Free Laneway and Green Space (up to 100 visitors a day on a sunny day!) during the four years we have been operational.
Other Ballarat food relief agencies are in the same boat as they work hard to bridge the gap of food shortages brought on by many factors.
The fact that only 6.4% of the Ballarat population eats the desired amount of vegetables daily, speaks volumes.
The inherent issues of food security go a little beyond just hunger and poverty.
When you really drill down there's a massive problem with health related illnesses in this town associated as a bi-product of food security problems.
These include obesity, heart related issues, general ill health etc., which are inextricably related to this blight.
What this boils down to is our citizens opting to eat food of low nutrient base out of sheer necessity and sometimes ignorance generated from inter-generational bad food habits.
We as a community, and that includes Council, should be encouraging and enabling at all levels for our citizens to eat fresh nutritious food.
So how as a community do we do this?
By ensuring a realistic and implementable Food Strategy is adopted and one, which makes it easier, cheaper and more accessible for people to grow their own food is a definitely a good start.
The City of Ballarat has indeed made some great decisions and policy changes creating inroads to enable this, turning it into a real possibility for citizens to access fresh cheap nutritious food.
The recent approval of citizens growing food on front footpaths, and trialing edible trees as part of the Urban Forest, are two great examples of this.
The council granting Food Is Free a parcel of land at Green Space to not only grow food for our community but also set up a classroom to teaching DIY food growth and sustainability (thanks also to Pick My Project funding), will bolster this arena even more so in the coming years.
I believe City of Ballarat are more amenable to projects like this as people have been openly demanding it and coercing Council to listen to their ideas for food production (especially for food security purposes).
And City of Ballarat are dedicating more resources and research into this arena which is why this Food Strategy Plan is such a good thing.
Food Is Free Inc. have always been strong advocates in food security and actively promote accessibility for all citizens to grow their own, and will continue to be so, leading by example and actions.
I urge everyone with an opinion on this topic and let's be frank - we all eat so it does affect us all - to read the plan online and consult back to Council.
This is what an open democracy is all about.
As we say at Food Is Free : 'Together we can create change'.
But we shouldn't ever rest on our laurels and say we are doing enough, once a few changes are implemented. We can always strive to do more. Particularly when it comes to our citizens health and wellbeing.
Amongst the many projects Food Is Free Inc. have presently slated to tackle food security issues and education, we will be focusing on assisting with food production via local gardening as always.
Growing your own not only offers a cheaper and easier option than bad eating habits from your local takeaway shop or bad purchasing decisions at supermarkets, but it is better environmentally, and as any gardener will attest gives a great sense of wellbeing.
Our aim at Food Is Free Inc. is to educate in a fun and accessible way for all, for anyone keen to come and learn some skills in an inclusive community environment.
We'll be doing this from springtime onwards once we fire up our Green Space workshops.
We will prove you can garden yourself for very little outlay, and provide nutritious food cheaply, with a little bit of effort.
A vision I've always had when I started Food Is Free in Ballarat four years ago was to really engage the community in healthy living via gardening, and a huge inspiration in setting up Food Is Free Laneway was the crew at Incredible Edible in Todmorden in the UK.
They are a grassroots mob just like ours powered by volunteers who grow food all over their town for anyone to access anytime.
This to me in the true essence of food security.
And something I'd utterly love Ballarat to adopt!
Imagine a town filled with free food, especially in low socio-economic areas.
Food for thought, as they say.
Lou Ridsdale is the founder of Food is Free.