cohealth community market day provides food relief for 60 families in Merri-bek

Posted on 12th December 2022
A group of people at the foodshare. There is a tent and a truck full of food in the photo

What does 200kgs of bread look like? And how do you deliver 1.8 tonnes of fruit and vegetables to 60 families in a streamlined and efficient way? 

These questions, and more, were answered on Wednesday 7 December when cohealth worked with Foodbank and Merri-bek Council to offer a ‘pop-up free produce community market’, which involved dispatching food from a specially designed Foodbank truck to people in need. 

Each attendee was able to collect up to 12kgs of fruit and veggies, plus bread, from a large Foodbank truck with roll-up canvas sides. 

The event, hosted at the Glenroy Community Hub, went beyond simply filling the immediate need of providing wholesome food by incorporating activities that help families build pathways to self-sufficiency. 

“Food relief is a short-term solution, but cohealth, Foodbank and Merri-bek Council want to help families and individuals access sustainable nutrition solutions throughbuilding their connections to relevant programs and services,” said Maggie Arnold, cohealth’s Partnerships Manager at the Glenroy Community Hub 

Alongside the free produce, community members had the opportunity to access free healthy recipes and information about Hub food-related activities.  

“The market also provided an opportunity to connect people with local community organisations selling affordable, culturally relevant fruit and veggie boxes, which some people aren’t aware of,” said Maggie. 

To ensure good attendance by people most in need, cohealth undertook targeted engagement in the local community, including extending invitations via the Wellbeing Officers of selected schools and kindergartens, VincentCare, Youth Projects and Merri Health. Invitations were also distributed via partner organisations co-located at the Glenroy Hub, including the library, children’s centre, kindergarten and Maternal & Child Health service. 

Merri-bek Council has a strong focus on closed-loop food production, encouraging people to grow their own food and source food that is locally grown/produced. Fruit trees are grown at the Glenroy Hub, with the produce freely available to anyone who wants it. A community garden onsite also promotes growing and harvesting healthy food. 

Within Merri-bek are several localities with high rates of food insecurity, as reflected in the number of kids presenting to schools without breakfast or lunch. 

“Merri-bek Council is passionate about creating resilient local food systems and has noted an increase in food insecurity in the current financial climate. They have been supportive of the market day as an opportunity to help fill a gap in the food relief space, and invite the community in to the beautiful new Glenroy Community Hub,” said Maggie. 

Councillor Angelica Panopoulos, Mayor of Merri-bek, said Council has an important role to play in addressing food insecurity. 

“We want all Merri-bek residents to have access to healthy, affordable, culturally appropriate and safe food. This market is a great initiative that will help our residents access good food longer-term, as well as receiving delicious produce on the day,” Cr Panopoulos said. 

The community market is an initiative of a partnership between cohealth’s Health Promotion team and Victoria’s largest food relief charity, Foodbank. 

Foodbank Victoria said that the food relief services are an ‘arm around’ not a handout. 

“We are nothing without community,” said Matt Tilley, Acting CEO, Foodbank Victoria 

“Our relationship with cohealth is the embodiment of our spirit where people can come together in a caring and nurturing environment to share the most crucial part of living: food.” 

“It’s so important for us that members of the community who rely on this partnership can come to appreciate that we are not a ‘handout’, we are an arm around.” 

Elise Sampson, Acting Health Promotion Manager, says she is excited about the opportunities that are arising through the relationship with Foodbank. 

“Foodbank recognises that cohealth has incredible reach into communities that face some of the greatest barriers to accessing healthy food.  

“Together we are piloting a direct service delivery model that supports healthy eating food relief efforts to be culturally inclusive,” said Elise.  

“Through our Foodbank partnership we hope to contribute to a pathway out of poverty and to support healthy eating regardless of economic status,” said Elise. 

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