Scrapping Food Grants is False Economy: Alliance
24 February 2014 at 5:36 pm
The Federal Government’s decision to scrap the $1.5 million Community Food Grants program is false economy and shows it is disconnected from the Australian community, according to the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA).
Calling on the Government to rethink its decision, AFSA spokesman Dr Nick Rose said the grants would have stimulated the emerging community food sector, which is made up of voluntary enterprises, Not for Profit, social enterprise and small, for-profit businesses.
Rose said experience elsewhere shows this sector to be a dynamic job creator.
"And really the justification that it's in any way going to make any difference to the total government Budget bottom line is quite frankly ludicrous,” Rose told ABC Rural. “We're only talking about $1.5 million.
In a subsequent media statement, Rose said the Government should instead be looking at ways to improve the program, such as dropping any requirement that organisations raise matching grants to qualify. “This was an insurmountable barrier to many," he said.
The Community Food Grants program was announced last May and formed a significant part of the previous Labor government’s National Food Plan. The program’s first round attracted 364 applications.
It would have seen money invested in projects such as farmers markets, food co-operatives and hubs, community gardens, and city farms across the country. But applicants have been advised by letter that the program has been reviewed and won't be continued due to the “tight fiscal environment”.
Rose said last year’s announcement was the first time work by the community food sector had been recognised at a federal level. He said the grants would have helped the community food sector to develop new initiatives and improve those already existing.
“These take an amazing variety of forms, ranging from the do-it-yourself examples of food production in community gardens, through to the growing number of direct marketing schemes such as farmers' markets and small, innovative social businesses like the community-supported agriculture schemes found in our cities,” he said.
"Rather than a financial liability, the grant scheme is better seen as an investment in our social innovators. They take a trend they see forming in the community food sector and turn it into a community initiative or a business opportunity, often creating jobs and supplying the market with quality products.
"What we need in this country is a government with vision and capacity for leadership, that can see the potential in the community food sector and offer timely stimulus through well-directed start-up funding,” Rose said.
Through the collaborative development of the Peoples' Food Plan – Australia's first crowdsourced food policy – AFSA has documented the growth of community-based food initiatives in the voluntary sector and of the growing number of business-based food initiatives emerging around Australia.
A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture told ABC Rural that the Federal Government is developing a White Paper on Agricultural Competitiveness, which will drive long-term agricultural policies.
"The White Paper will take into account the analysis done for the National Food Plan, in the context of the government's agriculture and food related policies,” the spokesperson said.