Food is Free: If you want it!
The Food is Free Project reaches the south coast of NSW.
Photography: Prue Pepper
Fuelled by social media, the Food is Free project is rapidly gaining momentum across the world with an increasing number of Illawarra homes joining the movement.
A social initiative starting in Austin, Texas the Food is Free Project nurtures community connections by helping people achieve independence from what they see is a broken agricultural system. Starting in 2012 with a series of guerilla gardens, 300 cities worldwide have taken up the challenge to facilitate growing both food and their community by utilising their immediate surroundings.
Fresh, healthy produce is a key component of our ongoing wellbeing. In the current climate there are increased costs, both monetary and environmental, as the more traditional systems in use remove the connection between farmer, process and customer. These factors, along with the positive interactions that come from growing produce next to his front fence, led project founder John VanDeusen Edwards, to begin sharing his harvest and encouraging others to do the same.
Within a few weeks of harvest, the entire street was on board and John began to blog about the process. The project rapidly gained a reputation and with social media attention it took just months to reach our shores. A friend of John’s from our island state of Tasmania reached out, wanting to share the concept with her community.
Currently in Australia, Ballarat is leading the way in the food-share movement with two locations - Ripon Street laneway and the Western Oval - proving popular enough to sustain over 100 people each day. Some initial hesitation is a natural reaction, but also a by-product of our society, where we tend to see risks and barriers in the first instance. The Food is Free Project is flying the flag for positive interaction that helps the earth and helps us to connect with each other.
The Illawarra region now has a network of eight tables that share home grown produce and excess products. There is no obligation to trade or drop off, and sharing is based on a ‘first in, first served’ principle. The Facebook group for Food is Free Illawarra provides constant updates on what table has been restocked and with what items. Additionally, the over 2,000-strong member group regularly post updates on local food events, social enterprises, recipes and requests.
Food and community used to be synonymous with each other. Food was grown by, and for, the members of a community. Communities were united by sharing of food. There are still some locations that reflect that essence of being part of something, and movements such as #foodisfree are a great reminder of how powerful neighbourhood interactions can become.
As the Food is Free Project continues to gain momentum through social media, the information and education that may have prevented people from getting involved in endeavours like a share table or community garden has been liberated. The more people work with others, sharing their time and knowledge, will strengthen the bonds of each community as the crops are planted, harvested and eaten together. It all starts with the first garden.
Food is Free Illawarra Table Locations:
27 Lombard Ave, Fairy Meadow.
Table is on the verandah near front door.
Corner of Cowper St and Illawarra St, Port Kembla.
Table is on the front porch of the purple house.
3 Tuross St, Albion Park.
Table is on front verandah.
17 Tucker Avenue, Balgownie.
Table is through the gate by front door.
61 Redman Avenue, Thirroul.
Table is at front of house.
197 Farmborough Rd, Farmborough Heights.
Table is in carport.
94 Gibsons Rd, corner Gibsons Rd and Cordeax Rd.
Table is at front of house.
23B Dale St, Penrose.
Table is in the paddock next to house.
Join the Food is Free Illawarra facebook group here.
Find out more info about the Food is Free Project here.
Read more stories like this about local Illawarra people and businesses inside the Illawarra issue - covering restaurants, bars, producers, locally developed apps and social enterprise initiatives from the area!
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