Four Melbourne markets are giving low-income families access to affordable, culturally appropriate food, and building social cohesion and job opportunities at the same time.

Grant Type
Pitch In
Focus
Economic Empowerment
Date
2023
Partner

They may look like traditional Saturday morning food markets, but any of the four weekly markets operated in Melbourne by The Community Grocer are so much more. They are gatherings that address food insecurity, increase social connection and support employment pathways.

“The Community Grocer began with a vision of food for healthy connected communities,” explains Georgia Savage, General Manager at The Community Grocer.

“The aim is to increase access to fresh, affordable produce for communities with higher rates of unemployment or low-income families. Often, these are public housing estate communities situated in gentrified areas, where access to affordable and culturally relevant food is difficult because of economic and social barriers.

“The big picture goal is to create a community-led, sustainable, fresh food-access model based on dignity and nutrition that moves beyond the typical welfare style of handing out free food.”

For the past four years, The Community Grocer has operated three weekly markets in Fitzroy’s Atherton Gardens Estate, Carlton’s Public Housing Estate and at Living Learning in Pakenham. The markets stock produce requested by the customers and the prices are typically 30% cheaper than surrounding fresh food outlets.

“Poverty and economic inequality create economic barriers to participating in the purchase of food and to participation in broader social settings,” says Georgia.

“Most of the people we serve at our markets are from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and have moved to Australia because of war and political instability.

“We think creating a space for them that is culturally inclusive is critical to their participation in food, employment and social connections.

In early 2024, The Community Grocer used funding secured at the Bennelong Foundation 2024 Melbourne Pitch In to establish a fourth weekly market. It’s held in Flemington, at Debney Meadows Primary School on Saturday mornings, in the public estate high-rise towers between Racecourse Rd, Mt Alexander Rd and Victoria St.

The market was originally proposed by Kensington Neighbourhood House (a past Bennelong Foundation grantee) who were keen to better address food security in their area. The House worked with The Community Grocer and the Moonee Valley Council, to get the market off the ground.

The Foundation’s grant funded a feasibility study to determine the key operating conditions that would lead to the success of the market. This included a literature review to understand local food security and demographic data, a series of community consultations to get feedback on the idea of a market, cost comparison surveys, location assessments and partnership mapping to identify collaboration opportunities.

"Within only a few weeks, we've already seen an incredible response from community members,” says Mon, Market Manager at Flemington. “People are telling their friends, family and neighbours and every week, we're seeing new faces."

The market is also providing income opportunities for a number of women on the estate who participated in government-funded food micro business training but previously had no sales channel for their products. One woman is selling her own coffee and now has steady, reliable revenue.

Georgia says, “The Bennelong Foundation grant provided significant momentum to the Flemington market project because it resourced the foundational work needed to ensure it would be successful. The Pitch In event, and the partnerships we developed with organisations since that night, have helped increase the confidence, scope and overall perception of The Community Grocer as an impactful organisation.”

The Community Grocer may be a small not-for-profit, but it has a big vision.

“When it comes to food security, we see a world in which some people can afford to buy food, while others rely on a broken and increasingly industrialised food relief sector. We need to bridge this gap so that people who have less income, less social mobility and fewer resources can still access high quality, healthy food with dignity and choice.”

Impactful results

The Benefit

The Community Grocer is fostering social cohesion among communities facing food insecurity.

Outcome

Greater willingness among residents of the Flemington Housing Estate to cooperate with each other in order to prosper.

Outcome

More opportunities for residents of the Flemington Housing Estate to learn, work and connect with others, and to have a voice.

When it comes to food security, we see a world in which some people can afford to buy food, while others rely on a broken and increasingly industrialised food relief sector. We need to bridge this gap so that people who have less income, less social mobility and fewer resources can still access high quality, healthy food with dignity and choice.

Georgia Savage

General Manager, The Community Grocer

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