The Northern Suburbs Social Enterprise Story – A Peace of the Garden
Tasmania’s food security strategy Food for all Tasmanians recommends food security is addressed through improving social inclusion with a focus on vulnerable people and places. At the same time as increasing access and affordability of food and improving nutrition, you are building strong communities.
Northern Suburbs Community Centre (NSCC) in Launceston is improving food security in its community in a number of ways. In 2012, the Tasmanian Food Security Fund (TFSF) financed the Northern Suburbs Community Centre’s initiative Food Security and Life Long Learning (FILL). The NSCC received $136,000 over two years. The FILL project was managed by a coalition of local partner organisations, which included Life Without Barriers, Anglicare-recovery program, Business and Employment, Max Employment and the University of Tasmania. The coalition knew to have a sustainable benefit from the funding they needed to be innovative.
The decision to start a Social Enterprise to improve food access to vegetables and fruit was based on a philosophy of a “hand up” not a “hand out”. It was planned from the very beginning of the project. By creating a local food system, local food access in the Northern Suburbs would improve. Social enterprises have many benefits beyond the ability to provide a good or service, but the development of food based social enterprises was relatively new in Tasmania. NSCC establish the Northern Suburbs Social Enterprise (NSSE).
The evaluation of the project was in partnership with Public Health Services, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Tasmania using the Most Significant Change (MSC) method. The MSC method uses stories collected over the life of the project and the project team does the analysis of the data. The stories told how investing in food security a broad range benefits have resulted beyond improving the food supply.
Improved local food access
Local residents and services can now buy a box based on seasonal produce on a fortnightly basis. This is helping low- income families afford food. It has been possible some community members to move away from relying on emergency food relief and become more financially independent.
Last year was probably the worst year for us with me sending the kids to school with no lunch they’d have a big breakfast and tea but I just didn’t have the money for lunch too. It was pretty bad. I also had to go the Salvos every quarter I’ve only been once this year, the vegie boxes have made that much of a difference! We eat lots of vegie meals and we use everything in the box I don’t know where I’d be without it, it’s saved my life.
It’s made a huge impact on us as a family it means that I have more money at the end of the week to spend on my kids especially since my son is autistic and he doesn’t like to ride on the bus it means I have to drive him to school which is expensive with the cost of petrol. The vegie boxes have saved us so many times, I tell people about them too. I don’t know where I’d be without the vegie boxes, they have saved our lives. Community member (anonymous)
Increased Social inclusion
A safe and inviting atmosphere has been created through the way NSSE and the NSCC’s the Peace Garden runs, allowing people including those who have traditionally not come to NSCC, to meet others leading to learning, personal development and improved health and well-being. This story tells how important NSSE is to community members and the value of developing the social enterprise model. People can feel that their involvement gives a sense of self-worth as well as benefiting their community.
“…. but I’ve dealt with both neighborhood houses but I like it up here because everyone is crazy and that fits me. Put it this way I’ve worked with green core and that and everyone’s been friendly and everyone gets on, and that and yep I enjoy it. Ah so yeah that why I came here ……
I’ve haven’t been here long enough!
*laughter* The work that’s been in the community garden as in we’ve raised garden beds and made it easier for us older generation. One of these days I’ll act my age as I tell my kids when I start doing that put me in a home or load the rifle. *laughter* ah no that’s one of the things that I enjoy about being up here it’s just so crazy, ah there are rules that we need to obey and we have to put up with Jane and Bella we’ll train Bella the way we want her *laughter*. But no I enjoy it because you know you can have a laugh and that it’ s not like work ah an that so yeah you can’t sack volunteer you can just ask to come in anymore *laughter* that’s what I mean yeah I enjoy it up here.” Rod Volunteer and community member
Contribution to local economies
There are local economic gains through regular purchasing of goods from local suppliers. There is potentially more local economic activity through increased financial turnover in the local economy. The education opportunities both formal and informal provided have increased employment prospects for local community members. The stories collected reflect the change in attitude in the community about how to deliver social services and improve access to food in a more economically sustainable way.
The way that people are supporting us is really good because a year ago it was a real challenge for people to get their head around that we were a business now we are not a charity we don’t give stuff out. We’re trying to be sustainable, so that was a big thing for staff and for community members. The one thing that I do regret loosing is the social side of the garden like the “little sprouts” who used to come into the garden. The people that come into the garden now are different to what they used to be because its business run we have to keep in mind that to have that healthy balance that people aren’t losing their community garden. What the benefits are that we make really good produce and turn it into jams and people still come to the garden to potter and just do something for the community.” Jane NSCC staff member and volunteer
Improved local skill and knowledge base
Skill and knowledge development has happened through mentoring and shared learning. This has made pathways to formal education and employment for many community members. The stories tell how providing a safe and inclusive place the exchange of ideas, skills and knowledge can happen without the need for any formal training or curriculum.
“I get to meet a lot of different people; I’ve seen a few things growing up from out of the ground. Um.. I think I might have helped a bit of that. Find different ways of doing things getting some pointers. Like how to rake a garden out properly using different stuff, learning how to use stuff I’ve never used before.” NSCC volunteer (anonymous)
New partnerships have led to accessing a new mix of skills and resources, including business and technology advice. The stories show the value of engaging with organisations outside of community health and services
“There has been definite change to the marketing, which is important when it comes to any enterprise. Particularly online marketing, which is really, important for any enterprise. Since it’s a social enterprise it has to behave like a business, a profit baring business. The idea is to get it to a point where it covers its own costs, so it’s not relying on funding. Marketing is obviously really important in order to get the word out there. The acceptance of more of the business model, although that was already happening it’s growing that concept of having a business model as opposed to constantly relying on funding.” Deb Business Enterprise Tasmania
A Peace of the Garden
In 2015, the NSCC received funding from Heart Foundation’s The Healthy Food Access Tasmania (HFAT) project. It funded programs aimed at improving access to fruit and vegetables by looking at what influences a community’s access (physical and financial) to healthy food.
In August 2015, NSSE was re launched as the A Peace of the Garden fruit and vegetable box service. It offers a fortnightly delivered box service using local suppliers and produce from the Peace Garden with community drop off points. Online and phone ordering is available. The strength of the partnership approach taken from the very beginning of this initiative in 2012 has allowed the project to build and strengthen. The aim is to make A Peace of the Garden self- sustainable by 2016. For more information about the project and the evaluation process, please contact the Northern Suburbs Community Centre.
Denise Delphin, NSCC Manager