Cockatoo is part of the Dandenong Ranges in Melbourne and located in Cardinia Shire. The small towns that are part of the Hills have a tendency to suffer low levels of community infrastructure exacerbated by poor transport and high social isolation. Food insecurity is an issue in these towns with poor opportunity to access resources available to Pakenham and other Shire residents.
Emerald Community House developed a program they call Community Dining. Different to the Community Kitchen model, Community Dining has an universal platform that allows collaboration between businesses, community organisation and local residents. Open to everyone, the program asks that individuals contribute their time, fresh produce or a few dollars as their situation allows.
Statistically, residents in Hills area experience a high degree of disadvantage (social isolation and incidents of family violence, drug or alcohol abuse or mental health concerns). Community-minded residents are concerned to reach out to vulnerable and disadvantaged families who cannot access services in Pakenham, mainly due to finance and transport issues.
The only emergency relief centre, Cardinia Combined Churches Caring(4Cs), in Cardinia Shire is in Pakenham. They are feeding above 900 families in Cardinia Shire a week. There is poor public transport between the Hills and Pakenham. Families are rarely able to access the services available in the larger residential areas of the Shire.
Cockatoo Neighbourhood House is supporting locals through a Community Dining program (inspired by Emerald Community House’s Dig In Cafe) and food co-operative (as a buying group of the South East Food Hub). The Mentoring Activity funded by Communities for Children in Cockatoo already utilises a shared meal with families and mentors as part of the program. The shared meal has helped create a feeling of Community amongst the families. The Community Dining experience has been an absolute delight with opportunity for families new to the area to meet locals and locals to meet locals!
Cockatoo Neighbourhood House is keen to expand Community Dining and include the many musicians and artists in the area. We’ll be singing for our supper. Other groups, such as the Hills’ Community Gardens and the Hills’ Men Shed are hopefully watching the development of the shared meal and food co-op with interest. It would be great to have their involvement.
This level of support and disparate groups willing to collaborate on a project is unprecedented and inspirational. The level of co-operation has inspired 4Cs to consider out posting a food store in the Hills area which will assist vulnerable and disadvantaged families considerably. We need a free permanent space to set up the free food store and volunteers to staff it (4Cs will train the volunteers). Lots more to do.
The possible community development model for Community Food is expandable. There are many potential links and developmental aspects, e.g. seed banks and Guerilla Gardening. I look forward to what might come.