“I’m fortunate to travel the country and have a finger on the pulse off just some of the great projects and initiatives that are taking place in towns, cities, verges, villages, backyards you name it. And the common denominator is one thing… People like you Lou…committed passionate individuals who bleed community, connection and cohesion on lots of different levels. Every project has its intent and mission, but it is the threads that bind them which vibrate and rattle my cells to the core. And meeting and sharing the motivations and stories of the individuals and communities who are making things happen is a Privilege of the highest order if you ask me. So, I just want to say a big thank you for you and all you do. Respect, love and hugs for this year and your efforts and for the new year(s) ahead.”

Costa Georgiadis

ABCTV’s Gardening Australia + Costa's World/DirtGirl Co-Host

“The Engaged Communities unit of the City of Ballarat has worked to support the not-for-profit community run initiative Food Is Free since March 2015. The values and priorities of Food Is Free Inc. align strongly with many of Councils key priority areas from our Municipal Public Health and Wellbeing Plan: creating community cohesion, alleviating food security, promoting inclusion, with a focus on community members experiencing disadvantage. Engaged Communities staff have liaised with other units of Council and lead tenants in the hall at Western Oval to create a space where Food is Free Inc. could expand their range of activities to include growing food, composting and offer educational opportunities. The fact that the group has developed a strong and widespread following and support base is testament to the commitment and perseverance of Lou Ridsdale, the committee and volunteers. With gardening, fresh food and sustainability as a focus, the group are developing community cohesion, building community capacity and sharing skills, all essential components of creating a strong resilient community and supporting a healthy local food system.”

Caroline Amirtharajah

Health and Wellbeing Planner | City of Ballarat

“Although the simple concept of sharing excess homegrown produce is not new, this project has taken that concept to a new level by expanding the reach through clever social media and mainstream media coverage. Lou Ridsdale has been tireless and positive in her approach to spreading the message, engaging community members, and working with others. The project is a great example of how effective grassroots community actions can be in inspiring others to make positive and small changes that impact on health and wellbeing, food security and social connectedness. It’s a simple and rewarding way to build community health, wellbeing, and resilience as it promotes healthy eating and builds food security. It can assist people in times of need when the home food budget is tight. I am continually impressed with the terrific level of community engagement inspired by this project. This is a great example of building community resilience through a project that assists towards local food security, community education with social and environmental benefits.”

Cr. Belinda Coates

City of Ballarat

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