In a wealthy country like Australia, in land surrounded by commercial food production, it is ironic that many families suffer with poor access to good quality food. Part of the Dandenong Ranges in Me…

In a wealthy country like Australia, in land surrounded by commercial food production, it is ironic that many families suffer with poor access to good quality food.

Part of the Dandenong Ranges in Melbourne is located in Cardinia Shire. The small towns that are part of the Hills have a tendency to suffer low levels of community infrastructure exacerbated by poor transport and high social isolation. Food insecurity is an issue in these towns with poor opportunity to access resources available to Pakenham and other Shire residents.

Emerald Community House developed a program they call Community Dining. Different to the Community Kitchen model, Community Dining has an universal platform that allows collaboration between businesses, community organisation and local residents. Open to everyone, the program asks that individuals contribute their time, fresh produce or a few dollars as their situation allows.

Residents in Cockatoo experience a high degree of social isolation and incidents of family violence, drug or alcohol abuse or mental health concerns. Community-minded residents are concerned to reach out to vulnerable and disadvantaged families who cannot access services in Pakenham, mainly due to finance and transport issues.

The only emergency relief centre, Cardinia Combined Churches Caring(4Cs), in Cardinia Shire is in Pakenham. There is insignificant levels of transport between the Hills and Pakenham. Families are rarely able to access the services available in the larger residential areas of the Shire.

The Hills Community Gardens group and the Cockatoo Neighbourhood House are keen to support locals through a Community Dining program and food co-operative (as a buying group of the South East Food Hub). The Mentoring Activity funded by Communities for Children Plus in Cockatoo already utilises a shared meal with families and mentors as part of the program. The shared meal has had considerable impact on the families, some of whom are now willing to participate in broader community activities and are very keen on Community Dining and access to affordable food.

With Emerald Community House’s support and experience in the Community Dining model, Cockatoo Neighbourhood House, Hills Community Gardening, South East Food Hub with CfC Plus are keen to develop the model of Community Food in Cockatoo. This level of support and organisations willing to collaborate on this project is unprecedented and inspirational. The level of co-operation has inspired 4Cs to consider out posting a food store in the Hills area which will assist vulnerable and disadvantaged families considerably.

This project is ongoing and I will update as we progress.

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Comment by Cindy-Lee Harper on August 1, 2014 at 6:04am

Being reasonably well known in the community has certainly helped. Finding time to chat to staff as well as business owners also spreads the word. Cockatoo is a small town and the residents are keen to support the businesses as there are not many. The business people know this and witness the despair in the community when another business goes under. There are a few empty shops. There is no post delivered in the area to keep residents coming to the shops to pick up, so everyone works together. What will be really interesting will be transferring the project to a new area. I have already started those conversations. The food co-op has begun and the date for the first shared meal is planned. Lots of people are watching to see how it pans out. It will be a good forum to talk about a lot of concerns and ideas with residents who are not a part of any group currently.

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on July 24, 2014 at 6:01pm

Thanks for sharing the powerful stories, Cindy-Lee. I particularly fond valuable was the linkages in case of community dining and transfer from one community to another. At the Constellation - SALT is our way of working - 

S- share, support, stimulate

A- appreciate

L- listen, learn, link

T- Transfer

I have a question- what has helped in building linkages between the community and businesses?

Hope you will keep us updated on the project.

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on July 24, 2014 at 5:57pm

Thanks Cindy-Lee for sharing these community actions which depict linkages (community dining) and transfer from community to community. What has helped in bringing together communities and businesses together?

Hope you will keep us updated on the project. Just to share the DNA of the Constellation is SALT, the way of working with communities. 

S- stimulate, support, share

A- appreciation

L- listen, link and learn

T- Transfer

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