Welcome – who we are
Welcome everyone! To those who are unfamiliar with who we are and what we do, let’s start with the history of Food Is Free Inc.
Inspired by Food Is Free movement, which started up in Austin Texas by an amazing fella named John VandDeusen Edwards in 2012 (foodisfreeproject.org/), and Ron Finley from South Central LA (ronfinley.com) (check out his TedTalk) I decided to start up a community project in my own laneway beside my rental home in downtown CBD nestled in the Great Dividing Range (population about 100,000).
After excitedly growing way too much produce after making the tree change back to my home town after 20 years of living in Melbourne (capital city of Victoria, population 4.8 million) and rediscovering the joy of having a back yard filled with promise and chickens, I had been inspired by reading so much about Food Is Free and guerilla gardening, it made sense to me to give it a try myself.
Over the past twenty years I’ve been employed and volunteered at various community media and independent music industry organisation, so I knew the first step in setting up a community initiative was to ensure it wasn’t just me doing it. I drummed up a bunch of friends and neighbours who I was certain shared just enough of my ‘crazy’ to go along with me, and we busily planted up and painted up boxes of food plus the much loved original #FOODISFREE Laneway sign on 18 Oct 2014 and had a BBQ together afterwards.
The first few days not much happened, aside from curious looks and necks craning for hidden CCTV cameras (who in the hell gives away things for free after all??!!!) but then after a little while some people started taking the food/seedlings we’d left. Success! After a month something quite magical happened – someone left a sprig of parsley with a note ‘You may need this’ and that was it – we truly had liftoff!
From that point onwards, after a good 6 months of me constantly being in the Laneway regularly, explaining to people how it worked and making connections the visitors really starting to build up due to word of mouth and a Facebook page I created - I knew it was time to get some volunteers to help as it was too much for one person.
And yes the Laneway is illegal. And no I didn’t seek any permission prior to setting it up. And yes the City of Ballarat Council have fully supported it!
Today we have over 40 volunteers, and over 100 people visit (on a sunny day). Not bad for something with humble beginnings.
The Laneway is set up entirely from repurposed, recycled and/or donated items. It’s not always been smooth sailing – after the first year my house went up for sale, but after seeking local media assistance in spreading the word a very kind hearted local businesswoman bought the house to secure the future of Food Is Free Inc. Utterly amazing right?! We owe so much to her (thank you, you know who you are!)
The fact that I’m a publicist by trade helped bring the media attention, coupled with the perfect storm of that first few months experiencing a bumper Summer harvest like no other in many years really made things gather traction but it was the support, dedication and hard work of many visitors and volunteers alike, that made it really enjoy full speed!
From there Food Is Free Inc. committee was born and we wrote our Charter Of Ethics in our very first meeting (posted below). The rest, as they say, is history! Today we also have a Food Is Free Fundraising Committee and a Food Is Free Arts Committee.
After the Food Is Free Laneway was really humming and the space quickly all used up, I cheekily asked City Of Ballarat for some land on the adjacent Western Oval where the local kindergarten and Brass Band shared a hall, and they said yes! Over the next year and a half, the amazing volunteers helped build what now is the Food Is Free Green Space.
Launched in March 2018 with our good mate Costa Georgiadis from ABC TV’s Gardening Australia/Dirtgirl/Costa’s World (www.facebook.com/CostasWorld), FIF Green Space is a green hub where we will grow food en masse with members of at-risk/vulnerable community groups to be either placed in the Laneway or to take with them. It will also be a place for us to run sustainability and self-sufficiency workshops– enabling the community to be empowered by growing their own produce. And so much more!
Future plans beyond all of this have already started bubbling away, and we can’t wait to share it all with you.
Feel free to drop me a line – always happy to hear from the community (worldwide/local or otherwise) at firstname.lastname@example.org
Together we can create change!
Food Is Free Inc.
FOOD IS FREE INC. CHARTER OF ETHICS...
1. Food Is Free Inc. is Ballarat based and its core purposes include : food security, food production, education, building and strengthening community resilience and participation, environmental awareness, sustainability, and recycling.
2. Food Is Free Inc. believes everyone is entitled to free nutritious food and is committed to fostering food security for all.
3. Food Is Free Inc. will always engage in activities/education/ programs, which are as most impactful for the community as possible in accordance with the Food Is Free Inc. Charter of Ethics.
4. All Food Is Free Inc. sites (including FIF Laneway, FIF Green Space at Western Oval and all projects based off-site from those two locations) advocates an inclusive space where no one is judged.
5. Food Is Free Inc. food drop off and collection spaces advocates the principle of ‘Take What You Need, Leave What You Don’t” in line with the global Food Is Free movement.
6. Where practicable Food Is Free Inc. will always use environmentally friendly resources, recycle/repurpose where possible, and use permaculture/organic gardening practices.
7. Food Is Free Inc. programs will be set up for the wider community to participate/benefit, but will be predominantly geared to encourage and assist marginalized groups become empowered and self-sufficient in the first instance. These groups include : Non English Speaking Backgrounds and those from multicultural backgrounds, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, persons with disabilities and learning difficulties, women at risk, persons experiencing difficulties with drugs and alcohol, long term unemployed, homeless and persons sleeping rough, LGBTQIA persons, elderly persons experiencing loneliness, and others who identify as falling through the cracks of society and/or feeling isolated.
8. To solidify its future, Food Is Free Inc. will also actively pursue and involve as many children (via schools etc) as possible to foster an awareness of nutrition and food security for the next generation and beyond. By encouraging gardening from an early age with gardening workshops etc, and approaching schools for site visits to Food Is Free Inc. spaces, it will enable the children to adopt a knowledge of where food comes from/self-sufficiency/the principles of sharing and inclusiveness etc to arm them with those skills for the future.
9. Food Is Free Inc. promotes healthy lifestyles, increasing community connectedness, and developing stronger and sustainable communities, and greenifying and beautifying neighbourhoods by sharing healthy locally grown food, seedlings and related resources. Food Is Free Inc. advocates and embraces the DIY philosophy and People Power, which in turn champions empowerment. Food Is Free Inc. declares it will retain its independence and only enter into any partnerships which are ethical and mutually beneficial and reciprocal, and fit the ethos of Food Is Free Inc. Food Is Free Inc. spaces are to remain commercial advertising free spaces (exemption : city council logos where requested as a clause to appear as per grant funding recipients etc).
10. Food Is Free Inc. will be governed via the Food Is Free Inc. Committee and powered via volunteers plus (where financially possible) staff, and be a forerunner to enabling participants, staff and volunteers to gain skills and knowledge in sustainability to forge pathways not only towards a more galvanized society but to increase chances of employment where possible for all involved. Food Is Free Inc. will depend upon the contribution of the communities it serves to sustain itself.
11. All Food Is Free Inc. committee members are required to vote at general meetings (minimum of 5 voting members are required at all times for decisions to be made and a quorum determined. In special cases out of session votes via the Facebook committee page will be held if low attendance at meetings deems it necessary on matters that need urgent resolution. If one member deems it not appropriate to vote via Facebook then it is deferred to the next meeting). A total of 75% of the members all voting via a show of hands will determine if a motion is passed. No proxy votes are allowed. The secretary (Leigh Dumpleton) and Chairperson (Ginelle Polanske) of the committee are considered to be committee members, along with the Food Is Free Laneway Founder (Lou Ridsdale). The Chair holds the right to adjourn a meeting under special circumstances deemed by that person. Meetings will be held on first Sunday of each month plus one Annual General Meeting each October and all committee members will be invited to meetings via Facebook event reminders along with a meeting agenda set by the Chair. Committee members are invited and encouraged to also add agenda items prior to the meeting. During the course of the meeting an agenda item may be included at the end of each meeting’s conclusion under ‘Final Matters/Misc’. Members will receive meeting invite seven days prior to each meeting. All meetings will be recorded via minutes by the Secretary and posted on the Facebook committee page for future use three days post meeting date. All minutes and documents related to Committee matters are to be kept by the Secretary on file separate to Facebook group in both physical and electronic formats and available upon request to all committee members (except if any committee member raises an issue with confidentiality regarding their own personal information such as address, phone number etc). There are no fees required for Food Is Free Inc. Committee Members. If a committee member is absent from any committee meeting and wishes to they may request for Skype facilities to enable them to be present. Every Committee Member must disclose any conflict of interest regarding all matters under consideration. General meetings outside of the monthly format may be called by the Secretary or the committee or by quarter of total committee members giving a request in writing to the secretary to call a general meeting. The Chair and Secretary are appointed via members of the Committee voting on each person to fill the position at the AGM for one term (one year).
12. Food Is Free Inc. committee members may hold office for a term of one year and then be eligible for re-election or reappointment at the next annual general meeting. Committee members are required to place their resignation in writing to the Food Is Free Inc. Committee secretary within 7 days of decision to retire. New members nominations can be put forward from any Committee member at any time and the entire Committee votes on their inclusion at the very next Committee meeting. Sub-committees may be formed to handle specific issues related to Food Is Free Inc. such as Fundraising Committee, Volunteers Committee etc.
13. Grievance procedures for settling disputes between the Incorporated Association and any member, or a dispute between a member and another member/s will be as such : each party involved in the dispute must be given an opportunity to be heard on all matters at Committee level, and an unbiased decision maker will be called in to decide the outcome of the dispute should it escalate and intervention be required. This person will be an intermediary external legal representative who will assist to sort any issues or disciplining of members should they reach a point where the Committee members decide a reasonable and fair decision cannot be determined in the first instance and all avenues possible are explored. No Committee member is to speak nor act unfairly nor unjustly to another. All opinions are to be listened to.
14. These rules of the association may be altered by special resolution at a general committee meeting provided majority rules on the decision of inclusion/amendment.
15. Funds for Food Is Free Inc. may be derived from the various sources : fees paid by members, grants and donations (private, Government and business etc), fundraising exercises, proceeds from the sale of products or materials (if relevant). The Treasurer (Jane Botle) will be fully in charge of all operative costs, funding etc and is to provide a P&L sheet prior to each meeting to the Secretary and photocopies to be handed out to each committee member and also posted electronically on Facebook group page and filed in physical and electronic form by The Secretary. All monies must be handled with diligence and honesty. A bank account must be set up for Food Is Free Inc. independent of anyone else and managed by two signatories (Chair and founder of Food Is Free). The two signatories are responsible for the day to day operation of funds whilst the Treasurer oversees expenditure and advises on all fiscal matters. Food Is Free Inc. is not to trade if the company ever becomes insolvent. The signatories are responsible for all financial matters including the following :
• receiving funds on behalf of Food Is Free Inc. and issuing receipts for those funds
• paying funds received into the Food Is Free Inc. bank account for suppliers etc.
• payment of any staff fortnightly salaries into staff members bank accounts
• can authorise all expenditure by the association including drawing and signing cheques or use of bank cards on behalf of Food Is Free Inc.
In the event of Food Is Free Inc. being wound up or dissolved any surplus assets or monies are to be donated to a charity of choice who have the same principles and ethics as Food Is Free Inc. decided upon by all present Committee members at time of Food Is Free Inc. ceasing to exist. This is to happen within fourteen days of Food Is Free Inc. concluding. Funds and assets must not be distributed to any present or former Committee member, staff member or associate of Food Is Free Inc.