Mission to build a food secure future needs $2.5 million funding

The Election Selection showcases The Courier’s picks for what Ballarat projects need a funding promise in the lead up to the November state election. 

People experiencing food insecurity in Ballarat will soon have improved access to fresh food, if a Ballarat Foundation bid for state government funding is successful.

 FILLING STOMACHS: 11-year-old Blair and 9-year-old Tasha at the Yuille Park Community College breakfast program. Picture: Lachlan Bence

 FILLING STOMACHS: 11-year-old Blair and 9-year-old Tasha at the Yuille Park Community College breakfast program. Picture: Lachlan Bence

The philanthropic organisation is calling for $2.5 million to construct a food distribution centre in Ballarat. It will act as a pantry to charities and community groups who feed those going hungry.

The service will be operated by Foodbank, a food relief organisation that acts as a link between the food industry’s surplus food and the welfare sector’s needs.

It provided enough food across Australia for more than 67 million meals last year.

But with no food hub currently servicing the western region, data shows Ballarat hasn’t received its fair share.

Of the 1.7 million tonnes of food Foodbank distributed to regional centres in 2016 to 2017, less than 100,000 kilograms serviced the Ballarat and Grampians region.

In the same period the Loddon region received more than 500,000 kilograms of food.

This has the opportunity to make a real difference straight away.

Matt Jenkins, Ballarat Foundation

Ballarat Foundation chief executive Matt Jenkins said a food hub warehouse could be up and running in Ballarat in 2019, with the help of funding support.

“We are committing so much money to health, we are committing so much money to homelessness, yet here is something that sits in the middle of the two of them that is a really practical, tangible solution and will significantly change the food insecurity structure around Ballarat,” he said.

“This hub can be shovel ready by the end of the year. Not many projects will start and finish within a 12 month period of the election. This has got the opportunity to do that and has the opportunity to make a real difference straight away on this election cycle.”

Ballarat Foundation CEO Matt Jenkins and Foodbank Victoria CEO Dave McNamara. Picture: Kate Healy

 Ballarat Foundation CEO Matt Jenkins and Foodbank Victoria CEO Dave McNamara. Picture: Kate Healy

Construction is estimated to cost around $1.5 million, with approximately $750,000 needed to purchase land.

Foodbank Victoria chief executive Dave McNamara said the Ballarat warehouse will be the first Foodbank hub in regional Victoria.

“For us this is an exciting step in our 90 year history, coming back to regional Victoria in a meaningful way in terms of bricks and mortar,” he told The Courier in April.

“That allows us to take the first step of decentralising Foodbank into our communities to capture the quantum of food that is being lost locally because there isn’t the infrastructure there to rescue it and distribute it.”

The push for a solution comes after the release of a shocking Monash University report, which revealed more than 12 per cent of Ballarat’s population experience food insecurity.

Of the 100 people accessing emergency food relief surveyed for the Impacts of Food Insecurity in Ballarat report, 78 per cent said they experienced moderate to severe hunger.

Jessica Harris and Sandy Butterfield serve up lunch at the Harvest Ministry of Food meals program. Picture: Kate Healy

 Jessica Harris and Sandy Butterfield serve up lunch at the Harvest Ministry of Food meals program. Picture: Kate Healy

Access to fresh food was revealed as a priority for those experiencing food insecurity. Surveyed clients consume only one serve of vegetables, fruit, dairy and meat on average over a 24 hour period.

Charitable food relief services in Ballarat have experienced difficulty accessing a reliable and consistent supply of fresh food for meals programs, emergency relief and school breakfast programs in the past.

Ballarat Community Health general manager prevention and system development Katherine Cape said a Foodbank hub would increase the ability to rescue, store and redistribute food to the community.

“At the moment we could rescue more food but nobody has got the storage for it or the capacity,” she said. Foodbank also provides emergency food relief during times of disaster.

The Election Selection showcases some of the infrastructure needed to make sure Ballarat flourishes in the years to come. 

MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD

This year’s state election will be won or lost in regional Victoria and Fairfax Media is giving you the chance to help shape the issues that decide who governs us.

Over coming months, Fairfax Media will provide unrivalled coverage of the issues that matter to you backed up by regular experts commentary and analysis from former Victorian Premiers Steve Bracks and Denis Napthine, writing exclusively for Fairfax Media.

Alongside The Courier’s Election Selection – a list highlighting some of Ballarat’s funding priorities for the upcoming election –  we also want to know what matters to you.

Have your voice heard by all sides of the political spectrum by taking part in our ground-breaking online survey. It opens on Monday, 25 June, and it’s quick, easy and anonymous.

The survey asks you to rate the issues and raise some of your own. Fairfax Media will then campaign on the issues you choose to help make sure whoever wins on November 24 is listening to you and held to account.

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