How Melbourne is tackling food security and reconnecting neighbours

3000acres is an organisation turning Melbourne’s empty spaces into thriving mini city farms and forging budding community friendships. In 2018 Australian Ethical was proud to support their work through our Community Grants program.

Eating food that is grown locally is a great way to cut down on food miles (the distance food travels from production to consumer). And in an increasingly urban environment where we’ve lost touch with where our food comes from, it’s an important way to reconnect with our food. That’s why 3000acres is on a mission to help more people grow more food in more places.

Morgan Koegel, 3000acres’ Managing Director, talks passionately from her Collingwood office about how the organisation is helping to reshape the way people interact with their food one garden at a time.

“These gardens encompass community development, they tackle food waste and build resilient communities that fight climate change,” says Morgan. “As a result, people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to access fresh healthy food now can.”

The program brings together people from many walks of life to work alongside each other growing fresh produce.

“You might see an elderly Italian man explaining to a 20-year-old Brunswick local how to grow tomatoes. These amazing cultural intergenerational connections are a wonderful community development outcome.”

3000acres has even worked with the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre, connecting their clients and staff with a shared community garden close to their office.

“There’s often a belief that growing food in urban environments isn’t possible or that people can only grow tokenistic amounts of food,” explains Morgan, who wants to help people reconnect with their food in a meaningful way. “But the reality is we’re increasingly seeing gardens in urban areas where people are growing enough food to feed their families and even sell them at local markets.”

Since 2014, 3000acres has helped build 21 gardens while consulting on dozens more across Victoria. The organisation works with local councils turning underutilised land into community gardens. They also host workshops showing people how to create vegetable gardens, provide a communal set of tools shared across the gardens, and have recently introduced community composting.

Reclaiming food waste

Through our grant, 3000acres has built large-scale composting and worm farming systems in community gardens, encouraging locals to bring their food scraps for sustainable disposal.

750 households are involved, diverting 9,000 kilograms of food from landfill each year and producing 630 kilograms of compost, which is used for the community gardens, enabling them to grow more and reduce food mileage.

“Instead of food going to landfill and contributing to climate change, we’re able to use it to create nutritious soil and fertilisers that can be used to grow more food,” explains Morgan. “Community gardens are the perfect place for composting because people walk past them, so it’s really convenient.”

When food gets sent to landfill it produces greenhouse gasses which contribute to climate change. In fact, 8% of greenhouse gases are caused by food waste. But when food and paper are composted the matter breaks down and produces nutritious soil which community gardens need a lot of.

Shockingly, one in five shopping bags of food ends up in the bin in Australia. That’s $3,800 worth of groceries per household.

“People are becoming more aware and thinking about how much food they waste. But with the increase in people living in apartments, they feel bad that they can’t process their scraps in a responsible way. With the Community Grant, we were able to put composting facilities in 20 gardens.”

Food security for our future

Food security might seem like an issue restricted to places like Africa, but research shows nearly four million Australians experience food insecurity each year. One quarter are children.

“We need to feed the planet and not contribute to climate change,” says Morgan. “So we want to get more people involved in growing their own food, both from a sustainable perspective but also the threat of people not having access to fresh, healthy food.

“Composting is a great way to fight climate change because it’s using a natural decomposition process of organic material to produce something of high quality that returns to the food system.

“Together we can reduce waste, fight climate change and help community gardens produce delicious local food!”

Australian Ethical is proud to have supported 3000acres in the 2018 Community Grants.

Our 2019 Community Grant applications are now open

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