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Health Break for Food Charities

10 May 2016 at 11:13 am
Ellie Cooper
Rob Anderson is leveraging the popularity of the Melbourne food scene to feed people going hungry, writes Ellie Cooper in this week’s Spotlight on Social Enterprise.

Ellie Cooper | 10 May 2016 at 11:13 am


Health Break for Food Charities
10 May 2016 at 11:13 am

rob anderson

Rob Anderson is leveraging the popularity of the Melbourne food scene to feed people going hungry, writes Ellie Cooper in this week’s Spotlight on Social Enterprise.

HealthBreak is a lunch delivery service with a difference. Partnering with chefs and artisan food makers, as well as charity organisations, Rob Anderson wants to provide food lovers with a high-quality product that channels proceeds to people in need.

Anderson first came up with the idea four years ago when he and his wife bought several artisan fresh pasta businesses.   

“As we got immersed in the local Melbourne foodie scene, we saw there were a lot of other hidden-gem, artisan food makers that were in a similar situation to us where they were making terrific products that weren’t actually finding it that easy to connect with the foodies who wanted to have that product,” Anderson said.

“And so [we created] the concept a marketplace for foodies that provided them with really high-quality, hand-crafted meals and, at the same time, channelled money out to Melbourne’s food charities.

“We got to find out a bit more about what some of the work the food charities like Fair Share and Food Bank Victoria were doing.”

He also became aware of the immensity of food insecurity, and the disparity that exists in a food-loving city like Melbourne.

“One of the things that really drove it home to me, how much sense it made to kick HealthBreak off, was when we attended a few of the foodie events like the Taste Of Melbourne, the Queen Victoria Night Market and the Night Noodle Market and how crazy Melburnians were going to enjoy a good food experience. They’d queue for 30 minutes to taste a burger and had no hesitation spending large amounts of money,” he said.

“When you actually know how bad the food insecurity problem is here in our own backyard, how many men, women and children are being turned away from the welfare agencies because they simply don’t have enough food. It really hit me as [to] what a disconnect there is.

“It just seems wrong that an amazing foodie city like Melbourne really does have a dark side to its food scene.”

HealthBreak’s lunch delivery service is due to launch in July.

“People will be able to order weekly lunches for $13.20 for a meal and a health drink, and then out of each sale, 70 cents will be directed to one of the Melbourne food charities, which is enough for them to provide a nutritious meal for someone in need,” Anderson said.

“It’s one meal for a foodie equals one meal for someone who’s doing it tough.”

At the moment, Anderson is running a crowdfunding campaign, The Lunch Shout, through ING Direct’s Dreamstarter grants program.

The social enterprise has until 24 May to reach the $30,000 “tipping point” and receive a further $30,000 through the grant.

“Their support is conditional on us being able to get support from the marketplace, so we do need people to say that they want this to happen, that people do want to see hunger being effectively fought in Melbourne,” Anderson said.

“The way that we’re looking for them to do is not put their hands in their pockets to make a donation, but to just exercise their shopping decisions to buy something that is great value, tastes good and does good at the same time.”

For the duration of the crowdfunding campaign, HealthBreak is offering a number of lunch and dinner deals. Anderson said his aim was to secure corporate support.

“We’re getting some of the word of mouth happening through food bloggers and so on, so there’s just been all these different groups we need to reach out to, to get on board, and let them see the benefit of participating,” he said.

“The stage we’re tackling [now], where we’re expecting to get most of the funds for crowdfunding campaign, is through corporates shouting their staff a lunch.

“We figure we’ve got quite a compelling value proposition around employee wellness and staff motivation and corporate social responsibility.

“And then when that happens you build a customer base that then rolls into this sustainable giving model.”

HealthBreak is not Anderson’s first foray into social enterprise. In 2000 he started an internet-based enterprise, which struggled to get off the ground.

But he said he was drawn to the model, which creates good through sustainable business.

“It just makes so much sense. You get these people who work with this very capitalistic business model for their careers and then they end up stepping into philanthropy to create good,” he said.

“What I love about social enterprise is that you can, from day one, do both – run something that’s sustainable and commercial, but has embedded social impact and creating good.”

He said one of the challenges of social enterprise was building a solid reputation with the general public.

“I found that there’s been an enormous amount of interest and support from people who are interested in social enterprise,” he said.

“One of the challenges is persuading the mainstream that the product or service that’s being offered is going to be good quality and, without the charitable benefit, is going to be something that they’re going to enjoy the experience.

“The good thing about food is once people actually try it they get to realise how excellent it is.”

He said that careful planning and partnering with high-profile organisations has created a safety net for HealthBreak.

“We’ve been very careful about setting this venture up so that it’s a very low overhead business so that if we achieve a small level of success we’re still doing something positive, if we grow it into something substantial then it amplifies the benefit,” he said.

“The issue of credibility and leveraging people’s networks has been one of the challenges but we’ve been very fortunate that people like the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre’s catering division have been happy to get on board.

“We’ve got a number of other social enterprises, including the Thankyou Group, that are supplying us. And as the business rolls out, the marketplace will just grow.”

Anderson said he had ambitious plans for the future.

“We’re also fairly grounded and realise that it’s a matter of just taking baby steps, so we’re very cautious of not trying to run before we walk, that was sort of the mistake I made with the first social enterprise back in 2000, it was a fairly big business model,” he said.

“But we’ve designed things so it’s a very scaleable model. Not only does a channel fund food charities directly on each sale, but also any remaining profits go out through a micro-grants program to some of the welfare agencies that are also fighting food insecurity.

“And that model can be applied to any market anywhere. Melbourne is an opportunity to pilot it, and we’re planning to build it to a level within Melbourne that becomes sustainable and is having some solid impact, and then we’re hoping that we can scale it into other markets.”

Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.

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