How we support food security in Melbourne

14 October 2022

Melbourne is a famously liveable city. We’re renowned for the quality of our food and world-class dining and hospitality scene.

Despite this, in 2021, about one in three residents experienced food insecurity and only 4 per cent of adults consumed the minimum recommended daily serves of fruit and vegetables according to our Community Indicators Survey.

That’s why we’re taking steps to make sure everyone in the community has access to affordable, fresh and healthy food.

Find affordable, fresh and healthy food with our Community Food Guide and community food map

In a prosperous city like Melbourne, everyone deserves access to sufficient food to support their health and wellbeing.

However, in recent years, we’ve recognised increasing levels of food insecurity as a health, social and economic issue. COVID-19 further exacerbated the inequity of food access across our municipality.

As a council, we’re focused on strengthening food relief initiatives and supporting communities to grow their own food through our four-year Community Food Relief Plan 2021–2025.

We have a history of working with the community on food security, and we’ll continue to ensure those in need can access food relief.

Our Community Food Guide is a helpful resource for community agencies or anyone in the community who needs information about how to access affordable, fresh and healthy food.

‘We are a caring city and we need to look after each other,’ Lord Mayor Sally Capp said.

We supported 10,000 international students during lockdown with $200 ‘Our Shout’ vouchers to purchase fresh food and produce from Queen Victoria Market.

We’ve also committed to partnering with food relief and other charities – like SecondBite – to provide groceries and meals to vulnerable residents.

We’re looking into community food enterprise models, including opportunities to work with Queen Victoria Market traders to redirect edible surplus food that would otherwise go to waste.

This work will help reduce overall food insecurity to 25 per cent by 2025, back to pre-pandemic levels. It will also support our progress towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals particularly Goal 2, Zero Hunger.

Explore our Community Food Guide and food map to find free or low-cost meals, food banks, community gardens and cooking and growing classes near you.

A student uses an ‘Our Shout’ voucher

Connect with locals and grow your own vegetables at our communal gardens

Filled with spinach, cauliflower and kale, the crops in Melbourne’s communal food gardens in Boyd, Docklands, Drill Hall, East Melbourne, Melbourne University, North Melbourne, Southbank and Kensington are thriving.

We support the Kensington Stockyard Food Garden, which was established in 2018 and features more than 100 square metres of growing space, an Indigenous garden and fruit forest with more than 30 trees, including figs, apples, citrus, elderberry, and other berries.

‘Our growing is primarily in self-wicking beds as the stockyard is paved with bluestone,’ Nan Austin, Chair of the Kensington Stockyard Food Garden said.

‘While we make some compost onsite we cannot meet our ongoing needs so we recently purchased two tonnes of compost from the City of Melbourne green waste program.’

‘We’ve done the sums and we’re using a whopping 5000 litres of compost each year, which is equivalent to at least five tonnes of food and green waste redirected from land fill.’

As well as feeding members with fresh produce, the Kensington Stockyard Food Garden delivers about 10 kilograms of vegetables to a local food pantry to be shared with the community every month, and collects seeds for reuse in the future.

Excess seed is shared at regular plant swap meets.

Produce at the Kensington Stockyard Food Garden

Turning grey to green through our Urban Forest Fund

Our Urban Forest Fund projects are transforming grey spaces to green with leafy laneways, curated courtyards and rooftop gardens.

Melbourne Skyfarm in Docklands saw a rooftop car park turned into an urban farm oasis via a matched $300,000 grant, as part of our Urban Forest Fund.

It boasts a working urban farm, including a rooftop orchard and vegetable and herb garden, providing a blueprint for other green transformations in the city.

Our Gardens for Wildlife program helps residents increase biodiversity in their gardens – from sprawling backyards to balconies.

‘We often encourage adding some Indigenous alternatives to balcony herb gardens,’ said one of our Gardens for Wildlife volunteers.

‘These plants attract wildlife and can be used in cooking, such as Yam Daisy (Microseris walteri), round-leaf mint bush (Prostanthera rotundifolia), chocolate lily (Arthropodium strictum), bulbine lily (Bulbine bulbosa), vanilla lily (Arthropodium milleflorum), ground cover parsley (Apium prostratum), or river mint (Mentha australis).’

‘Thanks to the Gardens for Wildlife team, my plants are absolutely thriving,’ said Ann-Sofie, City of Melbourne resident and Gardens for Wildlife participant.

‘I didn’t know anything about native Australian plant life, let alone how to care for it on a balcony. Everyone should be doing this, it’s great fun.’

Melbourne Skyfarm

Getting creative with our food and garden organics waste

Food and the ways we produce and dispose of it has a huge impact on our environment. In fact, if food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gasses.

About 45 per cent of our residential landfill bins are made up of organic waste, which ends up in landfill producing methane gas, odour and contributing to climate change.

We’re taking steps to cut this in half, and achieve zero net emissions by 2040, with our new food and garden organics waste service.

Since launching, we’ve provided 23,000 households in the City of Melbourne with the food and garden organics service, diverting more than 1400 tonnes of organic waste from landfill.

That’s the equivalent weight of 46 Melbourne trams.

‘The success of our food and organics waste service proves that Melburnians are keen to embrace a more environmentally-friendly method of waste disposal,’ the Lord Mayor said.

We’ve just begun trialling the organic waste we collect as compost for our local parks and gardens in Kensington.

We’re also about to commence a pilot program, testing on-site food waste processing in up to six high-rise apartment buildings.

Become a food waste champion and learn more about our food and garden organics service.

Celebrating food and organics collection

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