How to start your own Food Is Free site

"...set up a site that you can sustain and commit to."


Straight off the top – we won’t mince words: the most important thing to remember is to set up a site that you can sustain and commit to. A site that looks shabby in time due to neglect won’t help the Food Is Free cause at all. A good way of ensuring it doesn’t go to ruin is to engage and include the community from the very get go as we did. Not only does that mean the load doesn’t fall on one person’s shoulders, but it also amplifies what we are about: community!

Talk to your neighbours – inform them that you will be setting up a site. This is a great opportunity to finally talk to neighbours you don’t know. Total bonus if you get them to help you set it up and run it – which is what we did and is definitely a big factor in our success. More hands helping lessens your workload but more importantly it builds a real sense of pride and ownership for the site, meaning it won’t get neglected.

Also, ensure the size of your site is manageable – so start small. As the momentum builds, the space will grow naturally in time: just like ours did.

Apart from that there are no rules. Food Is Free is open source, meaning anyone can do it without seeking permission from anyone else. Your Food Is Free space doesn’t have to have the same look, shape or themes as anyone else’s – the fact that they are all different is what is exciting about them.

Set up a Facebook page and Instagram account etc. Use the power of social media and local media to get your voice heard and to gather the troops.

Get inspiration from other Food Is Free outlets via their social media pages and share your tips with others.

We always get asked: is it illegal to set up a Food Is Free space? Do you need permission? Well, it depends where you set it up, plus all Councils are different so if you wish to seek permission be prepared that in your district, suburb, town etc they do have the power to shut it down but don’t let that sway you. If there’s opposition, get people power behind you. Councils WILL listen if you open in an engaging communication with them. Changing policy takes time – but it takes people to do it, so your voice IS important.

Again, the absolute key is to ensure it’s well maintained: old spent food will attract vermin, so get a band of volunteers together to do daily patrolling shifts in looking after it. Encourage people to drop off organic items if you plan on growing food to make your own soil. This also encourages people to participate who aren’t green thumbs. Register on if you plan on having a compost area if your site is in Australia. Look for other sites in your country if you are not.

In time, if you want to become a not-for-profit registered charity as we did, ensure you write a list of agreed philosophies prior to things getting too big, that way you have a set of guidelines to ensure you are all on the same page. We have a Constitution and a Board set up to guide us. In Australia, the ACNC can help with more info.

Can’t commit to running an ongoing Food Is Free site? No worries – why don’t you still be part of the Food Is Free movement and leave a box of apples in a public space like a bus shelter? Place a zucchini on your letterbox with a sign that says #FOODISFREE for a passer-by to enjoy. Drop off some fruit to a rooming house. Those random acts of kindness can make someone’s day turn from bad to wonderful. You can do that as often as you like without the commitment of hosting your own space.

So, remember:

Community engagement is key.

We are all in this together and we all have the power to create change. Little acts accumulated become big movements, and every single thing we do with purpose forges us together as humans.

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