Tasmania is the first state in Australia to have a food security strategy, called Food for all Tasmanians. This strategy explains that food security can be increased by improving social inclusion. This is especially important for vulnerable people and those living in isolated places. The food security strategy focusses on building strong communities while also making healthy food more available and affordable.
The Devonport community has improved food security in North West Tasmania by working in partnerships. Gateway Community Care runs a program called Heaven’s Kitchen and Devonport Community House runs the Community Food Shed. In 2012, these community programs in partnership with Devonport City Council received funding through the Food for all Tasmanians grant fund. These community food programs have changed the way food relief is provided in the community, and this has brought more benefits that just relieving hunger.
The ‘most significant change’ method (MSC) was used to evaluate the programs. Gateway Community Care and Devonport Community House worked in partnership with Public Health Services, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), to collect stories over the life of the project. These stories showed how investing in food security gave a broad range benefits, much more than just improving the food supply. In this community, the investment made through the Food for All Tasmanians grant fund has had many social and health benefits.
Local food access
The stories collected inform us about the benefits of local food access. More and more people are coming to Gateway Community Care’s Heavens Kitchen program and Devonport Community House’s Community Food Shed. The services now offer cooking programs, which means more food for the local community and the chance for people to join in, learn, and feel socially included. The stories also showed that programs do not run as well when the donated food supply becomes unreliable.
“It has also got him (my son) eating vegetables; he used to hate them before he came here. Well now he tries different food and has learnt to cook-he learnt it here not at home. Now I come home and he has cooked tea for me. I have MD (Motor Neuron disease) and am in constant pain. He can walk here and get what we need and bring it home. I cannot read too so he reads all my medications and stuff it is a lot for a 14 year old. I think he gets support from coming here”. Joanne DCFS recipient and mother of volunteer
“Until the food system (in relation to emergency food relief) gets sorted it is going to be difficult. Some people (food businesses and suppliers) feel we are taking business away from them (by having emergency food relief) but (our people) would not have bought it anyway…we are introducing them to new foods and this may make them go and buy the food so we are helping them. We know there is food waste out there but it costs the farmers too much to pull it out of the ground.
If it was not for the work I am doing (with suppliers) we would not have anything (fruit and veg) through the food shed if we do not have anything to give away people just won’t come”. Vicki Devonport Community House Food Program Coordinator
Gateway Community Care’s Heavens Kitchen program and Devonport Community House’s Community Food Shed provide safe and engaging places where people can build friendships and feel a sense of belonging. They give opportunities to learn new skills. The stories reveal how a community food program can provide many benefits to vulnerable people beyond just food provision.
“….. And I come here basically to show my appreciation of Heavens Kitchen and Nexis House, how they helped me.
I am a friendly face, I chat to people and do to others what others have did for us…a smile can go around the world…
Sometimes I do not feel like coming but I have made a commitment and make myself come …and I come away feeling a lot better.
For me the most significant thing is the healthy support network…you have got people here with different needs…people from all areas of life millionaires to those needing food but you come here under one banner. For me I feel my family has got bigger –now I am also part of the church too”. Shane
Local skills and knowledge
People have learned a wide range of new skills by being involved in the community food programs. Both community members and volunteers who help run the programs have talked about how their new knowledge and skills have led to employment and education opportunities.
“Heavens Kitchen feels like a big family, who come together over a meal and encourage each other, no matter what stage of life you are in. But another significant change has been running our children’s program ‘CHEEP’ – Children’s healthy eating and education program. To see the children grow in just a short time has been wonderful. They love our new facilitator Mrs. Tonya F who runs these nights. One girl showed me her workbook the other day which said Dear Tonya, I am loving having you as the craft lady, you’re been awesome through the year, thanks Tonya, see they don’t know that our old craft time has now been turned into a health internal program”. Melissa Community Food Program Coordinator Gateway Community Care
Local Governments can play an important role in improving food security by leading a collaborative partnership approach. Local Government can help secure funding opportunities by supporting good project governance, and they can help increase community involvement using their networks.
“We have been able to meet our goals and far more. We implemented a work plan that would see policies and producers put in place for employees and volunteers. We have been able to bring a training component into our program with the TAFE College that has assisted three of our volunteers to gain employment in the food industry. We have developed partnerships with the local producers of food, Second-bite and local food businesses to secure our food sources”. Cheryl Coordinator Heavens Kitchen
Getting involved in local activities helps people to build the skills they need to be part of their community in a meaningful and socially acceptable way. The community stories show the personal value the Heavens Kitchen program has had on local families’ ability to connect to their community. Involvement in community food programs have led to improvements in peoples’ health and wellbeing, and increased participation in education and employment.
“The kids have been involved here in the craft and cooking classes they now have, my 12 year old is helping at home and he frequently cooks at home, he wants to be a chef. The kids are participating in more household chores and I am getting a bit more time for myself.
I did do semester of study last term but illness stopped me but I plan to go back next year..
I used to go to the Community House to get food but now we grow our own
Now we have our own vegetable garden and we grow lots of things
The green one you know –yes Kale… that is going wild we put it in stews
Strawberries, spring onions, rhubarb, lettuce silver beet, tomatoes (kids shouting out what they grow)
My 12 year old likes to decide what we grow and cook we want to get healthier.
We are now doing sports..I have got a 12 month Gym membership …I see a personal trainer once a week. It is really good.
We probably won’t come next year (here to Heaven’s Kitchen) –we are just so busy and we are growing our own food now. It is nice though to have a break from ‘at home’-we cannot afford to go out to a counter meal”. Kylie community member
A word on the Food for All Tasmanians Grant program.
Public Health Services, DHHS used the ‘most significant change’ (MSC) method to evaluate the programs by collecting stories from community members, staff and volunteers. These stories showed how investing in food security has created a broad range of social, health and economic benefits.
“Partnering with others and particularly Devonport Council has allowed us to provide the hands-on application of the grant. This makes perfect use of each service’s skills and frees up valuable resources, time and energy from, in our case, reporting and justification. The grassroots nature of the project has been explored in such a way to prove that once the need is identified and provided for, improved health and wellbeing follows. The partnership with Public Health Services in evaluating the process has been the icing on the cake. This is the most exciting element of any funding process – realising a positive result, especially when some outcomes are not anticipated and prove to be a beneficial side effect beyond original expectations. Devonport Community House is very thankful for the forward thinking opportunities provided by the Food for All Tasmanians grant and continues to build on this great start through on-going provision of fresh produce to the local area, along with socialisation and learning opportunities through food”. Devonport Community House Manager Kate Beer
For more information about the project and the evaluation process, please contact:
Devonport Community House
10 Morris Ave, Devonport 7310
Ph: 6424 7060