AFTER twelve months of its existence Food Is Free Laneway Ballarat is expanding! With Ballarat City Council support the much loved Food Is Free Laneway Ballarat, set up by Ballarat local Lou Ridsdale, will divide itself into two and whilst retaining the gardening component (seeds, seedlings, compost, worm farms etc) in the current space on the corner of Ripon St Sth and Warrior Place, it will also have a new presence called Food Is Free Ballarat. Located only a few meters away at the south-easterly corner of Ballarat’s Western Oval (3 blocks from the CBD) Food Is Free Ballarat will set up on the corner of an existing sports and recreation oval and green space where sharing tables will be placed around to allow for more room for people to drop off and collect fresh food than the currently cramped space in the existing Laneway. Food Is Free Ballarat will be operating as of 12noon on Saturday 28th November.
Ms Ridsdale said, “This is a giant step forward in the promotion of the Food Is Free movement globally as well as within Ballarat itself, and will help ensure food equity and food security for all Ballarat citizens and visitors. In turn, I believe this secures a long prosperous future for Food Is Free in Ballarat, and I thank the Council for their support and faith in me driving it.” “Personally I’m really looking forward to continually fostering a greener, and more tight-knit community in the Redan/Ballarat CBD district, as a direct consequence of their support of my vision for Food Is Free. “Moving it to a larger site will mean it becomes more visible and in turn will give Food Is Free Ballarat a real permanency and presence, not to mention safer access via allocated car parks, along with the benefit of better visibility with it located on a more prominent and accessible street corner, which at night is brightly lit. “Given how quickly the Laneway has expanded in only one year, it is timely to move across to the oval, especially with Summer harvests looming and the move will allow space for many more people to visit us. Presently we have 20 100 visitors per day.” Food Is Free was initially set up in 2012 in Austin Texas, USA and is a network of front yard gardeners sharing their harvest. Food Is Free Ballarat is a combination of all the principles of three grass roots groups: Food Is Free, Food Not Lawns and guerilla gardening. Lou originally set it up as an experiment, and as an avid organic backyard gardener, decided to transform her unused Laneway adjoining her inner-city property into a Food Is Free space to share her harvest with her neighbours and passersby.
As it grew, it also became a space to grow seedlings and share seeds, drop off compost etc for the green thumbs or those wishing to try their hand at gardening. “I particularly love the connections it’s forging in Ballarat and beyond, and to see it unfolding right outside my window has been magical to witness and be part of. But for it now to expand over to the Western Oval is beyond my wildest dreams and certainly not something I envisaged a year ago during its humble beginnings.” She said. “It has become an important part of the fabric of community spirit in this town and its success is directly attributed to the community itself for embracing it and supporting it. I cannot wait to see what the future brings when we have the two sites operating.” Hosting this Food Is Free project ticks all the boxes : greenifying unused spaces, fostering a more solid and safe community, teaching people how to eat good wholesome organics, eating foods within harvest seasons, utilizing small spaces via container gardening, teaching people where fresh food comes from, providing a safe environment for people to take fresh food for free and anonymously, reducing carbon footprint, taking the power from large chain supermarkets and reducing their monopoly, encouraging others to swap and share their surplus foods, recycling and repurposing. “People come here and say ‘sorry I’ve got nothing to give (in return) and I say there is heaps – bring me your veggie scraps and put them in the compost bin for me, broken egg shells, plastic bags or potting mix; there are a million things people can bring,” Lou added.
“We don’t charge or expect anything from anyoneso long as they leave with a smile on their face, that’s the most important.”