2023 Annual Report

 This year has been marked by significant developments and projects for Open Food Network Australia, demonstrating our sustained commitment to driving positive change within food systems. We’ve continued to focus on our three strategic directions, working towards more equitable and regenerative food systems at all levels.

Despite challenges like the continuous impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, rising costs, and climate change, we remain committed to connecting and supporting local initiatives, empowering them to respond effectively to their communities’ needs. The resilience and innovation of the community food enterprises and farmers we collaborate with inspire us.

Our main priorities include improving food equity, advocating for the community food enterprise sector and improving market access for regenerative producers. We’re actively designing practical solutions with partners to create a positive impact. Looking ahead, we have multi-year projects aimed at advancing food equity and regenerative and agro-ecological food and farming practices. 

We are incredibly proud of our team as they continue to work towards systemic change and build an inspiring organisation that grows our next generation of food systems leaders. We’re grateful for the support of our funders, partners, and supporters, as together we work towards building more resilient food systems and communities.

Report Hightlights

Published Projects
Alternative pathways to farm business ownership beyond inheritance

This research report, commissioned by Agriculture Victoria, dives deep into models of farm business ownership that extend beyond traditional land and business inheritance.

We explored five approaches, identifying the barriers and enablers to their successful implementation.

These findings provide valuable insights into government policies that can pave the way to support new and young farmers.

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Food with Dignity

With the support of the LMCF, our Food with Dignity through Community Food Enterprises project saw us work with Community Food Enterprises (CFEs) to improve their ability to provide dignified food access.

By conducting needs assessments and exploring funding mechanisms like a voucher scheme, we are actively helping CFEs fulfil their community-serving mission.

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Rapid Needs & Value Assessment of the CommunityFood Enterprise Sector in Victoria

Community Food Enterprises (CFEs) are vital for a healthy, sustainable, regenerative, and just food system.

In Victoria, these enterprises are recognised and supported as part of a growing food ecosystem. However, the Australian CFE sector faces significant challenges, such as lower sales, extreme weather events, limited funding opportunities, and exhausted volunteers, leading to closures and resource limitations.

Thanks to funding from the LMCF and ST, we collaborated with multiple CFEs across Victoria to rapidly assess needs and gather evidence of the public value they provide.

Our report identifies the public good outcomes, emphasising the crucial role of CFEs as community centres that foster strong connections and engage in diverse activities.

We found that CFEs acknowledge food as a catalyst for community gathering, learning, connection, and growth. To help funders understand their role and benefits as local community centres, as well as the distinct social and environmental advantages derived from their involvement in food trade and supply, CFEs must effectively articulate their value. This report showcases prototype report cards as a tool to communicate this value.

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Sustaining Land Sustaining People in Nillumbik

A place-based project in a peri-urban community in Victoria, Australia.

Open Food Network Australia and Fair Share Fare partnered with Nillumbik Shire Council with funding the Council received from the National Landcare Smart Farms program.⁠

The project highlights several incredible community-led initiatives and explores how people can age well in place while continuing to manage land sustainably. ⁠

Through co-design, we engaged the community to identify barriers and opportunities for land management, sustainable agriculture, and staying on the land.⁠

By fostering collaborative problem-solving, the project tested community-led solutions; involving those most affected increases community buy-in and on-the-ground change.⁠

This project underscored the importance of community-led approaches with social and ecological health at its core. By supporting aging landholders to stay on the land, it aimed to enhance the Nillumbik food system while addressing land management challenges.

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Open Food Ecosystem

A suite of tech solutions designed to transform the efficiency of local food enterprises with integrations and tools that connect to the Open Food Network platform and beyond.

Simplifying operations and promoting collaboration through comprehensive, automated, all-in-one dashboards and individual integrations tailored to improve day-to-day workflows.

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Current Projects
Regenerative Produce Discovery Portal

Open Food Network is collaborating with a trusted network of partners to build a Regenerative Produce Discovery Portal.

Regenerative agriculture includes a range of perspectives, approaches and methods for practises and ecological outcome assessment. This Portal aims to provide clarity, assurance and visibility of the Australian sector, while simplifying how buyers can discover regenerative produce and producers.

The Portal pilot will launch in April 2024.

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Merri-bek Food Leadership Action Group (FLAG)

We have been working with the Merri-bek City Council and the local community on this project across several years. Collaborative governance mechanisms have been co-designed and built to foster an innovative and truly community-led food system transformation. Over the past year, the initiative has helped the Food Leadership Action Group (FLAG) to facilitate funding for two local food projects.

Further progress includes appointing and supporting a Community Coordinator to assist the FLAG on-the-ground, with action and facilitation of partnerships and community engagement. This project seeks to unites local food system stakeholders, harnessing their collective influence to drive meaningful change and improve food security for the contexts of the Merri-bek community.

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Regenerative Agriculture Policy Advocacy Strategy

The project aims to highlight and advocate for regenerative agriculture as a holistic approach to tackling the challenges of climate change.

This is being considered at the Federal Government policy level. The project is about working out how stakeholders might best focus collaborative effort to influence Federal Government Policy.

The project has three key components, including: an updated scientific literature review of the evidence for regenerative agriculture, a policy scan to identify future opportunities/options, and stakeholder engagement and input for an advocacy strategy.

These elements will serve the foundation for developing an advocacy strategy promoting regenerative agriculture on a National scale.

The project is being driven by a tight and effective team made up of external contractor Maggie Wood, Rebecca Gorman and Amida Cumming and Serenity Hill from Open Food Network.

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Food Voucher & Fund Pilot Program

Open Food Network Australia is a proud recipient of the Citi Foundation’s Global Innovation Challenge which is providing $25 million to 50 community organisations to build innovative solutions that improve food security.

Our project builds on a previous project funded by Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation and will establishAustralia’s first food subsidy fund to be implemented alongside a voucher program to increase access to food for diverse and disadvantaged communities, with the pilot starting in Victoria.

We will be working in close partnership with Sustainable Table and several Community Food Enterprises across the State and look forward to reporting on ourprogress.

Read more… 

Thank you to everyone who has funded, collaborated and supported the Open Food Network. These relationships reflect the focus on our strategic directions to drive systems change and create an enabling environment for better food systems.

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