By Sue Slater, Birallee Park Neighbourhood House
Many of us plant a zucchini seedling in spring, only to find that we can harvest enough zucchinis to compete with major supermarket growers. Or how about that lemon tree that reminds us of Nanna’s lemon meringue pie, or the pasta sauce that our Nona used to bottle using home-grown tomatoes that grew from Uncle Joe’s “ heirloom” seeds.
Sadly this scenario is lost to many living on the Border currently. We need to remind ourselves that whilst food was relatively easy to grow in our parent’s backyards, and can still be abundant for some, for others amongst us, food security is a daily stress. This is where food swaps or a sharing table, play an important role in any notion of sustainability.
The idea is not new, and in fact Birallee Park Neighbourhood House in West Wodonga, has been holding a regular Food Swap for some time now. However, taking the initiative of a food exchange a little further, the concept of “Food is Free” is a relative newcomer to the food security and sustainability arena. Based on a gardening movement that utilises spare unused space, whether it is in our own front yards, or on public lands and then offering the produce to everyone without restriction, this Neighbourhood House has gone one step further. With large community gardens already in place, Birallee’s new fresh food cart grew out of a greater need to provide to the community, a wide variety of vegetables and produce from its gardens, which it could offer specifically to provide food assistance to sustain and improve wellbeing. It is a platform for community to interact, to make social connections, where no questions are asked, and there is no requirement to prove a need or share in return.
By the simple act of sharing or donating excess, not only can we avoid wastage, but we are able to satisfy our community’s needs on many levels.
Food is free at Birallee is the beginning. Let’s stop wasting our excess harvests, think sustainably and share our food, knowledge and skills, not to mention that recipe for Lemon Meringue Pie! Let “Food is Free” encourage community cohesion, and connections with our neighbours, whilst nourishing the community at the same time.
(Fresh produce can be dropped off at the Birallee Park Neighbourhood House Inc. on 39 Emerald Avenue, Wodonga anytime between 9.30am-2.30pm during weekdays).