1 Aug 2018
Meet the inspiring Aussie charity Food For Change and local farm producing fresh food (and hope) for Aussies in need.
Credit: Food For Change.
Just off the Dingley Bypass, 20kms south-east of Melbourne CBD, a small community farm is making a huge difference to the lives of thousands of people in need of fresh, healthy food.
Matthew Donovan, founder of Food For Change moved to Melbourne in 2016 and stumbled across a startling fact – at the time, over two million Australians had no access to food when they needed it.
“I have a background in agriculture, so when I first heard of this issue, I thought ‘I can do something about this,’” Matthew says. Shortly after, Food For Change was born. “Our mission at Food For Change is to alleviate food insecurity in Australia. It’s a big dream, but with such amazing community support and volunteers we’re already doing our part to make a difference.”
The demand for food relief in Australia is rising, with reports from Food Bank stating that 3.6 million people sought food relief last year,
a 10 percent increase on the previous year. Sadly, they also report that 65,000 Australians are turned away each month due to food shortages, nearly one quarter of which are children.
“Food insecurity doesn’t just affect the homeless,” Matthew says. “It affects the elderly, students, asylum seekers, employed and unemployed people…everyday Australians who need food but just can’t get it.”
Food For Change kicked off in 2017 when local farmer Les Baguley, donated two acres of land on his flower and fruit farm in Clayton South, Victoria to Matthew and his burgeoning idea.
“I just started asking people if they could help,” Matthew says. “Since I started sharing my dream, I’ve been astounded by the community spirit to do something good for others.”
Everything from equipment, farm supplies and volunteer work started pouring in from locals. “The land, water, fertilizer, equipment and unused seedlings destined for the incinerator were all donated. We also have a growing team of volunteers who nurture and harvest the produce, then help us package and distribute it to our network of food relief agencies, who make sure Australians in need can eat fresh food.”
Credit: Food For Change.
February 2017 saw Matthew and his growing team plant their first crops. Proudly, they produced over $10,000 worth of organic produce from their first harvest – an exceptional start to providing fresh produce to people in need.
“Fifteen months later we have produced food for over 30,000 meals and helped thousands of families across Melbourne,” Mathew says. Their produce range continues to grow, too, including carrots, broccoli, beetroot, radish, silverbeet, sugar snap peas, cauliflower, onions, zucchini, pumpkin and a selection of herbs. “We’ll just keep growing,” he says.
With a goal for all Australians to access fresh fruit and vegetables, Matthew says it’s the stories from the road that keep him passionate every day. “Not long ago, one moment really hit home when a local food relief worker told me that they had given a young family a box of mandarins from Les’ trees. The kids grabbed the fruit and without peeling it, dug their teeth into the skin. It had been so long since the kids had eaten fresh food they just wanted to eat the whole piece.”
While Les’ farm is a base for the Food For Change family, the organisation is also on a mission to secure forgotten land and educate communities on how to create their own communal gardens and grow their own produce. “There’s a lot of unused, but accessible land in our communities - there are 10,000 acres of usable land in Melbourne alone. If we can bring more people together, to grow and share food, we’ll not only create more positive and safe communities, but we’ll do a lot of good to help people in need.”
Most recently, Matthew and his team are working with local Queensland councils and community groups to establish more village gardens. “We’re excited to soon open a second site in Dandenong, with the help of Dandenong Council and Sunsuper.”
Credit: Food For Change.
Each year, Sunsuper awards a share of $150,000 in grants to grassroots not-for-profit organisations to make a positive impact in Australian communities. Matthew and his team have been recent beneficiaries, using the funds to create change. “Last year, we won $25,000 from Sunsuper’s Dreams for a Better World grants program,” Matthew says. “The program is all about partnering with local charities and Australians who have big dreams to help others.”
“Sunsuper’s support last year helped us quickly expand to another acre on Les’ farm and we’ll soon expand to more sites in Melbourne. We’re also looking at ways to improve how small quantities of unused food is better rescued and shared.”
It’s a dream Matthew never dreamt of achieving, particularly in such a short amount of time. “I never really thought about the enormous positive impact Food For Change would have on the community, bringing people together and helping others in need; I just knew it had to happen. I hope for the future, when my six-year-old son grows up, he too can live in a sharing community, where everyone does their small part to make our world a better place.”
DID YOU KNOW?
3.6 million Australians volunteered in 2016 and the rates of volunteering were the highest among the 45-54 year age group at 679,602 people.
Volunteers are essential for charities like Food For Change to continue helping Australians in need.
DREAM BIG. DO GOOD.
Sunsuper’s Dreams for a Better World Program is currently looking to support local not-for-profit organisations and small businesses that can make a positive change in Australian communities. To learn more or apply for a grant visit www.dreamsforabetterworld.com.au
This Sunsuper contribution was published in G’DAY Magazine.