Spotlight on Social Enterprise – Fair Food with CERES
Wednesday, 2nd March 2011 at 1:01 pm
A new social enterprise is providing organic, sustainable fruit and vegetables to homes and businesses across Melbourne – and educating consumers about important issues of food security and seasonality.
Fair Food is a CERES social enterprise that delivers organic food boxes across Melbourne, providing an alternative for people who want to buy their food outside of the dominant supermarket system.
The enterprise is an initiative of CERES – the Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies – in the Melbourne suburb of East Brunswick.
CERES is well known by many in Melbourne’s northern suburbs for its community vegetable gardens, farmers markets and sustainable living education programs.
Doron Francis, Enterprise Manager with CERES Fair Food says Fair Food is a pretty simple operation that starts with customers setting up a subscription on the Fair Food website.
Food boxes are packed at the Fair Food warehouse, before being delivered to volunteer food hosts around the city. The idea is that customers can walk over once a week and pick up their food box from a local food host – usually a front porch or garage.
Francis says this low food-mile distribution method is one of the key differences between Fair Food and other food delivery services. There are currently 40 ‘pick-up’ points in and around inner Melbourne (click here to view a map of the pick-up points) with new pick up points to open soon in Kensington, Footscray, Seddon and Yarraville.
Francis says another key difference is Fair Food’s commitment to supporting local, independent, sustainable farmers. While almost all of the farmers are organic, Francis says Fair Food looks beyond organic accreditation to issues of sustainability.
All revenue generated by the enterprise goes back into supporting education programs run by CERES. Each year over 65,000 school children visit CERES to learn all about the need for sustainability, community and cross cultural awareness.
|Above: Mathees from Sri Lanka at work in the Fair Fruit warehouse|
The social impact of the enterprise has been carefully planned, with Fair Food employing floor staff through AMES, a large provider of specialist employment and training services for newly-arrived migrants and disadvantaged Victorians.
Francis says staff sourced through AMES are predominantly people with refugee status, and Fair Food tries to create a welcome, ‘soft landing’ for newcomers to Australia. He says hiring people through AMES has lead to some quite beautiful success stories, and its all part of the end to end, seed to plate ethos that Fair Food is working to create.
Francis admits the service is not for everyone, however as food issues– such as food security, sustainability and seasonality – are increasingly working their way into the mainstream, more and more people are questioning the modern supermarket system of food delivery.
Francis says he wants Fair Food to be an example of how to create more resilient food systems. He says underneath it all, Food Fair is about food security – how communities can be empowered to look after themselves outside of the modern supermarket system.
The Fair Food website sells groceries as well – with another 150 products soon to be made available online.
Another arm of Fair Food is Fair Fruit – an initiative that supplies fresh, seasonal fruit boxes to businesses around Melbourne.
Francis says many organisations are getting serious about social procurement, and with Fair Fruit they are assured of an ethical supply line. Major customers like NAB and Melbourne Water are finding they can support CERES without donating money, and staff are being nourished and educated about seasonality and sustainability.
Fair Food was established with a grant from the Federal Government Jobs Fund in December 2009, allowing the enterprise to lease a warehouse, build cool rooms, purchase three delivery vans and develop the website.
Just over a year later, Fair Food has 1200 subscribers, delivers 450 boxes a week, and employs 5 full time staff, 6 part time packing staff and 2 drivers.
The next challenge for Fair Food is to further expand into the suburbs and growth areas of Melbourne, places Francis describes as ‘food deserts’.
For more information of Fair Food, or to setup a subscription and start taking part, please visit www.ceresfairfood.org.au
For information of Fair Fruit, please visit www.ceresfairfruit.org.au (website due to re-launched soon).