In 2016 ReActivate: Latrobe Valley was a finalist in the VicHealth Latrobe Valley Community Challenge, with a plan to build a Future Food Network in Latrobe Valley. The plan was to guide the local food movement to reflect the global movement regarding sustainability, health and well-being and build resilient local economies in our rapidly changing world. We think the Latrobe Valley can make a sizeable impression on this movement, don’t you?
Get Stuffed was born from a problem. Our 50 Mile Farmers Market team were finding a lack of Latrobe Valley food producers. The market limits stallholders to those that grow and create their produced within
a 50-mile radius of the Latrobe Valley (where the markets are held). The intention is to support the local economy and nurture small producers to take their produce and goods to market.
After a bit of digging, we uncovered some validating and somewhat troubling statistics. In Gippsland, 75% of adults are overweight or obese (1). In the Latrobe Valley 8.4% of our residents are unemployed (2), and 25.5% of our youth are disengaged from study, training or employment (3). The Latrobe Valley is home to
a number of ‘food deserts’, which means that fresh and healthy food is not accessible to many members
of the community. For every 1 fresh food outlet, there is an average of 3.7 takeaway food outlets (4).
We started to imagine what tied these issues together, and how food - the one thing that all of us have in common - could start to tell a new story in the Latrobe Valley. This was when Get Stuffed began
to take shape.
ReActivate: Latrobe Valley assembled a team of stakeholders. We shared what we knew and looked at the barriers to getting locally produced food into the homes of Latrobe Valley. We knew many backyard gardeners were producing food and feeding families and wondered how to share their knowledge and experience with others, and bring more produce to market. We found that food production was already
being used as a learning tool in our schools and training institutes. We wondered how we could connect classrooms to the local food supply chain. We cast our net wider, telling our story to our Gippsland neighbours, who are already getting excited about the local food movement and what it means for our regional communities.
We have over 120 restaurants in the Valley and from conversations with many, we discovered those who buy locally grown food and want to, but can’t access supply. There is a market that’s wanting to engage with our local producers.
We’re bringing seasoned gardeners together with interested community members to offer classes. In 2016, John Mauger facilitated Tuesday afternoon gardening classes at The VRI in Traralgon to groups of up to 25 interested gardeners. In 2017 we have Ian Onley continuing John’s work to teach and inspire our community to grow food. Want to go from being a mower to the grower?
We have #GetSwapped boxes in locations across Latrobe Valley for people to swap or share excess
garden produce. Through such trading posts we get to see all sorts of goodies from backyards in our neighbourhoods, and we reduce waste. Do you know a place that could be our next #GetSwapped box location?
We’re trading fresh cut herbs from a handful of local growers through our 50 Mile Farmers Markets in Traralgon and Morwell. Our aim is to build our supply chain with more small, medium and large growers distributing their produce through the monthly market, local shops and beyond. Do you grow herbs or know someone who does?
Our ethos is simple: Growing good food and local jobs in the Latrobe Valley. If we strengthen the local market through these initiatives the market will become more visible. If we reduce waste and redistribute excess, inequality in food access will shrink. If we share local know-how, skills and tools, food will become
more abundant and, with it, our ability to provide for ourselves. If we rethink the way we get food on our
tables, we can make space for countless food jobs of the future. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
As we kick off into 2017 we’re hoping to grow into what we have already initiated, and expand into new territories. To make that possible we need hands on deck and many voices in the conversation. To volunteer, please get in touch. If you own or work at a food outlet, let us know. If you’re keen to weave
food into your teaching, we want to hear from you.
We imagine a Latrobe Valley in which everyone can feel good about where their food comes from, and know with every bite they will be supporting local growers, traders, chefs and service providers. We want to see a Latrobe Valley that celebrates the diversity of food and its rituals, representing our many cultures at the table. We want to connect our community to our climate and encourage excitement about seasonal changes in our menus.
We want our local community to get stuffed with locally grown food.
For more info or to get involved visit:
1. In Focus Healthy Communities (2013); Overweight and Obesity Rates Across Australia; accessed October 3, 2016.
2. Australian Government Department of Employment (2016) Victoria Unemployment Rate by Labour Force Region; accessed October 3, 2016.
3. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2011); Latrobe Valley Region Summary; accessed October 3, 2016.
4. Healthy Together Latrobe (2014); Shifting the System: Food Access and Availability in Latrobe City; Accessed on October 2, 2016.