Sheilagh Kentish has a vision for all Ballarat residents to be able to grow their own food.
The Ballarat Community Garden president says leaving dedicated space for a community garden should be a part of planning for every new housing estate.
"There are so many patches of green around Ballarat that could improve access to fresh fruit and vegetables for all residents," Ms Kentish said.
Around 70 garden beds are in use at the Ballarat Community Garden in Ballarat East while 10 people are on the waiting list.
Ms Kentish said a community like Alfredton would be a prime location to set up another community garden.
The goal is to provide a space and support for any resident, such as those who don't have space in their own backyards, to grow fresh fruit and vegetables.
The act of growing in a community space has positive implications for health, well-being, social connections and food security, goals in line with City of Ballarat's draft food strategy Good Food For All.
The food strategy, to be implemented from 2019-2022 if approved, outlines how City of Ballarat can positively influence the food system, including aspects of producing, transporting, processing, retailing and consuming food, and disposing of food and packaging waste.
My vision for the food system is better access directly to growers, more farmers markets rather than supermarkets and quality food available to everybody, not just a select few.Liz O'Dwyer, Ballarat Permaculture Guild
Currently open for public submission, the draft strategy outlines City of Ballarat's priorities: to increase access to and promotion of safe and nutritious food, to reduce food and packaging waste, and to support and promote local producers.
City of Ballarat community development director Neville Ivey said a focus on the food system allowed an integrated and practical response to the complex issues of obesity, food insecurity and food waste.
"The recognition that complex and challenging food related problems need to be addressed by multiple organisations working at various points of the food system was the basic impetus for developing a food strategy," he said.
Food is Free Inc. founder Lou Ridsdale said a huge uptake of visitors to Food is Free, up to 100 on a sunny day, highlighted Ballarat's food insecurity issues.
Read Lou Ridsdale's full opinion piece on City of Ballarat's Food Strategy here.
She said the fact only 6.4 per cent of the Ballarat population ate the desired amount of vegetables daily showed there was a 'massive problem' with health related illnesses like obesity and heart problems as a bi-product of food security problems.
"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," she said.
Ms Ridsdale said initiatives like Food is Free, the approval of residents to grow food on nature strips and the planting of edible trees on council land made it a real possibility for residents to access cheap and nutritious food.
She said education on growing, preparing, preserving and cooking food was key to long-term food security.
"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 well-being," she said.
READ MORE: Food is Free movement empowers a community
One action of City of Ballarat's food strategy is to trail the planting of food trees in public spaces as part of the Urban Forest Action Plan.
Mr Ivey said these trees would most likely be planted in areas such as reserves and parks and could provide an opportunity to hold educational sessions on pruning trees and preserving fruit.
Ms Ridsdale said she would love to see Ballarat filled with free fresh food, especially in low socio-economic areas, similar to Todmorden in the UK where volunteers grow food all over the town for anyone to access at any time.
The Ballarat Permaculture Guild is also empowering Ballarat residents to grow food in their own backyard through permablitzes - backyard transformations that show how you can make a backyard of any size productive.
Permablitz organiser Liz O'Dwyer and author of Switch on Sustainability said there was a disconnect between what we eat and our knowledge of food and something changed when individuals improved their connection with where their food comes from.
"My vision for the food system is better access directly to growers, more farmers markets rather than supermarkets and quality food available to everybody, not just a select few," she said.
"If we don't have a focus on food security, not only in the Ballarat district but nationally, we will be a lot more reliant on imported food. These may come from sources unknown, grown in conditions that may not be to Australian standards."
Other council actions detailed in the draft food strategy include ensuring council-managed facilities offer healthy food, promoting composting and working to raise the profile of local producers.
City of Ballarat's draft Good Food For All Food Strategy 2019-2022 is open for public feedback until June 16.
Visit mysay.ballarat.vic.gov.au/food-strategy to make access the draft report and make submission.
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