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Council endorses Greater Bendigo Food System Strategy

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The Greater Bendigo City Council has endorsed the Greater Bendigo’s Food System Strategy 2020-2030 at last night’s Council meeting.

Over 30 organisations and groups have committed to either leading or supporting key actions listed within the 10-year Strategy Action Plan. An annual progress report against the strategy will be developed and publicly available at the end of each financial year.

The strategy focuses on supporting food security, the local food economy, food systems knowledge, skills and culture and reducing food waste from going to landfill. It features a shared vision to ensure Greater Bendigo’s food system is healthy, equitable, sustainable and supports the local economy, culture and health and wellbeing of the community.

City of Greater Bendigo Health and Wellbeing Director Vicky Mason said the strategy utilises a collective impact framework.  This is based on the knowledge that individual actions and efforts are limited, however when organisations work together towards a common aim, the impact is maximised.

“The strategy looks at strengthening and supporting our entire food system and is an important piece of work given that every person in the community is impacted by our food system on one level or another,” Ms Mason said.

“We know that Greater Bendigo has high levels of food insecurity. In 2019, 9.6% of households reported that they ran out of food in the last 12 months and could not afford to buy more, with some areas experiencing higher rates.

“We need to make sure our food system is healthy and is meeting the needs of the community. Implementation of the Strategy is now more important than ever to help support the region’s COVID-19 recovery efforts.

“We are proud to have worked with multiple partners to develop a strategy that will lead our own and partners actions to support and strengthen our local food system over the next 10 years.”

Bendigo Foodshare Manager Bridget Bentley said food insecurity is a significant issue in the Bendigo region, with 26,500 people living in poverty and 12,875 accessing food relief weekly.

“This demand is increasing dramatically as coronavirus related stress hits the local economy,” Ms Bentley said.

“For many of these people, accessing affordable and healthy meals for their household is a daily challenge, one that competes with other demands, such as housing, education and living expenses. As a result, people on low incomes are more at risk of falling short of the recommended daily intake of fresh produce. Just half of all local adults meet the recommended guidelines for daily fruit and vegetable intake.

“Access to affordable fresh, healthy food is a basic right that everyone in the Bendigo region should have. The fact that this is not the case is a community-wide issue that needs a community lead approach to tackling this issue head on.

“Bendigo Foodshare sees the Food System Strategy as vital to provide this leadership and commitment. We are committed to continuing to address food insecurity in the Bendigo region with partner organisations over the coming years.”

Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services Interim CEO Rose Vincent said her organisation was excited to be working with many other community organisations in a way that acknowledges the rich, diverse and inclusive community that we are all part of in Central Victoria.

“I am glad for the opportunity to highlight the fantastic contribution that new and emerging communities make to food production and consumption here in Bendigo,” Ms Vincent said.

Opportunity exists for additional community groups, organisations, businesses, schools and other key stakeholders to get involved in supporting the implementation of the strategy’s shared vision.

Any groups or organisations interested in getting involved should contact Rebecca Huddy on 54346000.  Further information about the strategy and other ways to get involved is available online at https://www.bendigo.vic.gov.au/foodsystemstrategy

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