Bendigo Local Food Economy report

“A $100 increase in per capita direct farm sales is associated with 0.80% lower obesity rate and a 1.2% lower diabetes rate.”1

“The density of farmers’ markets is also important. An additional farmers’ market per 1,000 people is associated with a 0.78% lower diabetes rate.”2

“Locals should be able to buy locally sourced product to support local jobs”3

The State of Greater Bendigo’s Local Food Economy Report

Recommendations from the Bendigo Local Food Economy pilot report

Our principal recommendations are as follows:

1. State government:

a. Local food economic activity and coordination should be supported by the formation of a Bendigo Local Food Working Group, funded by state government, drawing on representation from all of the existing bodies in Greater Bendigo working in this space.

b. State Government funding should be made available to the City of Greater Bendigo and Bendigo Kangan Institute to establish the Bendigo Community Food Hub at the Charleston Rd campus of BKI.

c. State Government should fund the coordination of emergency food relief in Greater Bendigo to enable the direct sourcing of produce by emergency food agencies from local producers.

d. State Government should establish an integrated cross-departmental Food Unit to coordinate planning and economic development to support a food system governed by the ordering principles of optimizing individual and community health and wellbeing and long-term environmental sustainability, as equal priorities to broad-based economic development.

2. Local government:

a. The City of Greater Bendigo should develop a comprehensive Council strategy that incorporates activity areas across Economic Development, Rural Communities, Community Wellbeing, Partnerships, Environmental Sustainability, Planning, Tourism and Marketing and Business development functions. This Strategy should be aimed to fast-track local food system and related initiatives that are underway or in development.

b. The City of Greater Bendigo should employ an agribusiness officer and an urban agriculture facilitator to provide critical support and coordination to progress local food economy and system initiatives, projects and activities.

3. Community:

a. Community food economy stakeholders should become members of the Bendigo Regional Food Alliance to advance the local initiatives and enterprises that comprise the local food economy as part of the local food system.

b. The Bendigo Regional Food Alliance should consider becoming a member of Sustain in order to become connected to like-minded local food networks and alliances around the country, share knowledge and practice, and build momentum for change.

c. The Bendigo Regional Food Alliance should have active membership of and participation in the Bendigo Local Food Working Group.

4. Further research:

a. State Government should support the undertaking of a detailed financial and economic analysis of the economic, business and employment benefits of the local food economy in Greater Bendigo.

b. The Bendigo Regional Food Alliance and the City of Greater Bendigo should explore ways to conduct a more extensive on-line survey of backyard food production and value adding activities as part of a wider community survey such at the City of Greater Bendigo’s community wellbeing survey.

Executive Summary

In recent years, there has been a growing awareness worldwide of multiple and converging food system challenges. These challenges are economic: well over half of Australia’s farmers cannot make a living from the land alone, leading to an exodus from farming and reluctance amongst our young people to embrace agriculture. The challenges are social: diet is now the major contributing factor to disease and early death in Australia, whilst over 600,000 Australians access emergency food aid every month because they are food insecure. The challenges are environmental: many of our soils are degraded and our fragile ecosystems are under threat because of major and continuing land-use changes since colonization.

Overlaying these economic, social and environmental challenges are the impacts of climate change and constraints on critical resources, which in turn generate an imperative to begin moving towards a low and even a zero carbon economy within a generation. The emerging picture is that the current ultra-globalised food system, which is reliant on lengthy supply chains and high inputs of cheap energy, is likely to be neither sustainable nor resilient over the medium and long term.

Thus it is no surprise that in recent years there has been a surge of interest in, and support for, local food economies, in Victoria, around Australia, and internationally. We can define a local food economy as:

‘Food production, and related economic and social activities close to where people live, typically resulting in higher levels of trust and more intimate connections between producers and purchasers.’

A strong local food system not only has health and environmental benefits, but also benefits local economies through job creation, greater investment in local businesses and increased farm viability. Sustain: The Australian Food Network recognises that local governments and community stakeholders, including local producers and food businesses, are leaders and pioneers in the field, with substantial knowledge of their region and its communities.

This pilot project aimed to assess a range of data and information from stakeholders representative of the local food economy in the City of Greater Bendigo. While sampling provides a snapshot of the bigger economic picture, interviews with leading actors mean that this report has relevance across a range of local food economic activity. Drawing on data from food system strategies and activities already in place in the Greater Bendigo Municipality, the pilot was also informed by a body of international and national literature pertaining to the impacts of enhancing Local Food Economies.

Through the use of semi-structured interviews and on-line surveys, we were able to capture those aspects of Bendigo’s local food economy that were most highly valued by key stakeholders, together with their principal motivations. In addition the perceived benefits, challenges and opportunities in supporting the further development of the local food economy in Greater Bendigo were documented. The home grown produce and value adding showed significant activity and different motivators from a community perspective.

Opportunities to expand the local food economy that interviewees identified include the building of a community food hub, increasing local produce markets and food tourism, boosting education and training for producers and manufacturers, and creating new value adding potential to institutional procurement and food rescue sourcing. The opportunities to support and expand the local food economy in Bendigo are given sharper focus by the urgent need to address Bendigo’s poor health, economic and food security indicators. The Loddon Mallee Murray region has the highest obesity rate in Australia, Bendigo has a high incidence of food poverty and 30% of the Greater Bendigo community earn below $600/ week.4

This entrenched disadvantage makes a strong case for attracting state and federal support to expand Bendigo’s local food economy, together with legislative and regulatory change to enhance the viability of local producers and food businesses. The observations and findings contained within this report can further inform reforms and measures to support the Bendigo local food economy, building on the already significant work undertaken by the City of Greater Bendigo, producers, restaurateurs and food business networks, community organisations, Bendigo Kangan Institute, and many other stakeholders over several years.

This report contributes to the growing visibility of the local and regional food sector in Victoria. It will serve as a template and an example to be followed by other regions in Victoria and nationally, and therefore become an important resource to strengthen the local and fair food movement in this state and beyond. Significantly, it will help continue to position Bendigo and all the food system stakeholders in the region as leaders and pioneers in this emerging sphere in Victoria and Australia.

We conclude that by creating economic opportunities and diversifying food based industry and employment a replicable business model can be developed to create diverse and healthy regional and local economies.

To read the full report, click the following link:

Sustain-Bendigo-Report-005R-Web

1. Salois 2010, 38; see also Berning 2012; Bimbo et al 2012; Minaker et al 2014

2. Salois 2010, 39; see also Berning 2012; Bimbo et al 2012; Minaker et al 2014

3. Interview with local Bendigo producer

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