A community-minded approach to food security

Monday, April 22, 2024

Locals helping locals

For the sprawling population of Glenelg Shire in South West Victoria, accessing fresh food on a regular basis comes with real challenges. “It’s a very large rural setting here,” says Jane Killmister, local Healthy Kids Advisor, “with vast distances between towns. We’ve only got a small number of supermarkets, so over half of the population in Glenelg Shire don’t have that affordable, daily access to fresh fruit and vegetables.”

Identifying the imminent need to tackle this food insecurity, Jane set about reviving a long-defunct fresh fruit program for local schools. With some effort, she pulled together the threads of a previous initiative and scaled it up to encompass the whole community. “We wanted to ensure that every school in the area could have access to one box of fresh fruit and veg every week, and with that came a commitment to hands-on food education,” says Jane.

In the past, the produce supplied to schools often spent a long time on the road and was in less-than-ideal shape when it arrived. “It can be tricky enough to get young people interested in fresh food, and when it arrives in the form of bruised apples, it’s almost impossible!” Jane points out. After securing funding through the Portland aluminium smelter, she sourced local suppliers – from the town’s IGA to Portland Strawberries and Gorae Organics apples – to provide seasonal options, before engaging a community-focused approach to fulfilling the program.



“Portland Secondary College runs a re-engagement program for students on the cusp of dropping out of mainstream education,” Jane explains. “We linked up with them so that these young people could help run the fresh fruit and vegetable initiative – packing and sorting boxes, taking invoices and, on occasion, being a part of the more farther-flung deliveries.”

The roll-on effects of hands-on education and exposure to fruit and veg is also an integral part of breaking the cycle of food insecurity. To help with this, the first deliveries came with resources, peelers, recipe books and teachers’ tips. “We don't want the food to get to schools and just get put in a bowl in a classroom,” explains Jane. “We want a couple of role models to sit with children, talk about the fruit, chop it up, encourage tasting and engaging the five senses.” The idea is that regular access and hands-on education builds familiarity and confidence, opening pathways for students to share this knowledge at home.

To ensure the fresh food deliveries are here to stay, Jane has worked with Portland Health to integrate the initiative into their planning. This means that when she finishes up her time as a Healthy Kids Advisor, her work will be carried on.


“I believe the work the Healthy Kids Advisors are carrying out is greatly supporting food security. Specifically, in the Glenelg Shire, where Jane has continually supported and promoted local producers through initiatives such as workshops, excursions, fundraisers, and media. She has also hosted multiple workshops with children, helping them to develop valuable skills and knowledge around gardening, sustainability, food, and cooking, which will support them into the future.”

– Maddi Cram, Health Promoter for Portland District Health


Making a seat at the “food network” table

Nearly 300 kilometres away in Victoria’s Central Goldfields, the community faces similar barriers. Here, the main factors that impact food security are the rising cost of living, limited employment opportunities and physical accessibility.

Despite these vast challenges, when Ciel Lindley stepped into her role as Healthy Kids Advisor, she found the region was built on a strong sense of community-led action. “They have a really great collaborative practice here,” explains Ciel. “It's sort of ingrained that you become part of a network to create decisions together. It has that strength. Despite all these barriers, there is this promise of really good, sustainable solutions being created for the region.”

This instinct for community-led conversation is what led Ciel to form The Central Goldfields Food Network, a space where different frontline workers – from social workers to health promoters and other locals involved or interested in the area’s food systems – could come together to talk about the community’s biggest challenges. Rather than having different programs all functioning in parallel, this created a chance to share resources and plan for meaningful change.



The Food Network has become a wealth of inspiration, opening up a chance for other organisations to learn about the community in a trusted and honest space. “FoodBank and FoodShare attend our meetings because they appreciate being able to sit in a room and listen to the people that are the homecare workers, or the maternal child health workers, or school principals speaking firsthand about family access to fresh produce,” explains Ciel.

The conversations led to workshops and planning around how to affect food literacy in the Central Goldfields region – a point identified as being integral to long term food security. From these roundtables, Ciel proposed an Issue and Opportunity Paper – the first of its kind for the region – that gathers useful community data and identifies the food security needs of the region while also providing a space to share local stories.


“Ciel has had the flexibility and insight to bring together a broad range of people and drive the process of facilitating a space to share knowledge, frustrations, and identify opportunities for solutions through the Central Goldfields Food Network. We wouldn't have otherwise had capacity to complete this work and the paper has helped to map out the challenges and strengths present in the community; our work now is to continue the momentum in this area.”

- Gemma Simpson, Central Goldfields Children and Young People First Project Officer


The hope is that the paper will be the jumping off point for more conversation, providing a platform for everyone working to the same purpose of food security to create meaningful and sustainable change. A voice from the community, for the community.

 About the Healthy Kids Advisors initiative 

The Healthy Kids Advisors initiative is delivered by the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation and supported by the Victorian Government and Australian Government. 

This community engagement initiative is active in 13 priority communities to spread pleasurable food education and encourage participation in the state-wide Vic Kids Eat Well movement. 

In collaboration with local health promoters, Council and community, our Advisors offer free support and simple ideas to boost healthy and delicious food and drink in schools, sports clubs, after-hours care and council-run facilities. 

Want more information?

Visit the Healthy Kids Advisors news page or contact us at hka@kitchengardenfoundation.org.au

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