‘Food is free’
‘Food is free’ is a movement which started in 2012 in Austin, Texas. As they discuss on both their website and their Facebook page, their aim is to grow both community and food. For example: “We are creating models for how to grow food in unused public spaces that provide opportunities for people to experience fresh, healthy, organic food, and the power of community when we come together for a cause that’s greater than ourselves.“
The first ‘food is free’ initiative in Australia started in 2014. As they say on their website, they are a group “benefitting all Ballarat (Australia) citizens with a focus on those experiencing disadvantage and [with a] core purpose of assisting and promoting food security and community cohesion and inclusion.“. And, as they say on their Facebook page, “come along and feel free to take whatever you need.“.
There are currently at least five ‘food is free’ initiatives in North East Melbourne:
- Blackburn: “This is a social permaculture initiative to share resources, distribute surplus, create connection, help other people, and strengthen community ties.“
- Diamond Creek: “Local residents have begun using this as a space to share what they are ‘making and doing during [coronavirus] lockdown.“
- Reservoir: “All you need to do to contribute is drop off any surplus home grown food/seeds/seedlings to their sharing crate (on the nature strip) at any time. Please provide a label if it is not obvious what the items are.“
- Ringwood East: “People leave surplus fruit, veggies, herbs, seedlings and seeds. Other people may then take them, at no cost. There is no fee, membership, opening hours, or obligation. Donations of garden produce are very welcome, but also small envelopes or ziplock bags, seeds, labels, glass jars for fresh herbs, etc. Everyone is welcome to get involved.“
- Warrandyte: “The food has all been donated— it’s fresh and free to anybody who needs it. There are gold coin donation boxes to help people feel more comfortable taking the food.“
A similar movement is ‘Grow Free’, who say they are “dedicated to making our food locally grown, organic and free” and “all about growing and giving away free organic, heirloom veggie/herb/flower seedlings for people to get their garden going“. The movement started out in Adelaide but now has a foothold in North East Melbourne, at Lalor and Rosanna. To find out more, either join their Facebook group or listen to a ten minute interview with their founder or read an interview on the ABC News website.
Finally, some neighbourhood houses in North East Melbourne are beginning to give away free food, notably:
- Reservoir: they have a pantry, which is simply an open cupboard fixed to the outside wall to which people can either donate, or freely take out, any non-perishable food. On Mondays and Thursdays, they also give away free bread and, in addition, on Mondays, there is free soup. Finally, there is a free monthly lunch on the 4th Wednesday of every month.
- Watsonia: they give away fruit, vegetables and bread. You simply walk in with your own bag and take whatever you want. The bread comes from Bakers Delight in St Helena and is made available on every Thursday. The fruit and vegetables come from Monty Fresh in Montmorency and they announce its availability on their Facebook page.