2022 Annual Report
We are proud to announce the launch of our 2022 Annual Report. This year has been one of our most exciting, impactful, and also challenging years to-date as an organisation. The food enterprises we work with have been stretching, flexing and adapting since COVID first hit, and our role in co-creating and activating short supply chains is responding to those challenges.
As an organisation we conceptualise our place in food systems as the mycelium: networking the systems together, transferring energy and support to enable initiatives to mushroom up in response to their local community needs. That has certainly felt true through this period and through this annual report you’ll have a chance to read about what has been going on below the surface of our organisation, and the exciting projects and initiatives that we’ve helped to grow.
Open Food Ecosytem
We are working with community food enterprises around Australia to develop technology solutions that integrate with and extend Open Food Network software functionality. This has included:
- Enterprise dashboards – These are being used by community food enterprises to simplify producer/ vendor order management, and extend their marketing functionality.
- Automated spreadsheets – Helping customers reduce their administrative burden through automation of complex and repetitive tasks like calculating prices or choosing what to put in food boxes.
- Food justice initiatives – Early stage projects such as discounts and vouchers to enable equitable access for eaters via hubs using the Open Food Network.
- Software migration support – When the Victoria Country Markets program finished, we helped producers migrate to the Open Food Network software platform through a streamlined onboarding process.
Our team is working hard to launch Open Food Ecosystem in early 2023.
CERES Fair Food
We are continuing to provide design and development support for CERES Fair Food’s organic grocery delivery service, e-commerce solution and website.
Key developments have included:
- Liquor Sales – New features to enable online sales of liquor.
- Technical Planning workshop – Facilitated an online planning workshop to help plan the future of CERES’s online systems.
- Increased Reliability – Continual optimisation of CERES infrastructure which has resulted in increases in speed and uptime.
- Reduced Technical Debt – Removal of unnecessary features to clear up technical debt, making room for future innovation.
- New Team Members – The CERES Fair Food Team now has a new Product Manager and Product Designer.
Food Next Door – Out Of The Box
Mildura based Food Next Door supports newly arrived migrants and refugee groups to re-engage with farming and grow food.
They run a social enterprise called Out of the Box, which provides the community with access to 100% local and organic produce.
We worked with them to transition their online store and subscribers from Shopify to our platform. We also provided video and email training to assist with the transition.
Open Road was a collaborative logistics pilot program operated by the Open Food Network in partnership with the Victorian State Government. It ran from July ’21 to June ’22 and received great feedback including:
- Freeing up time that producers would ordinarily spend driving.
- Creating connections between farmers, producers, food hubs and retail stores.
- Helping to reach new customer bases.
- Increasing the number of packing cycles possible.
- Reducing carbon emissions and congestion by delivering from multiple suppliers along shared routes.
Although this project is no longer running, there is clear evidence that similar schemes could have a massive positive impact on regional economies.
Whole Crop Purchasing Project
This project aimed to prevent on-farm food waste by helping farmers sell seasonal gluts, seconds or to create new, secure markets for current and future crops.
We brokered 25 individual relationships including six formalised partnerships that were co-designed by farmers and buyers in a distributed risk model.
- Avoiding 7.8 Mt of CO2
- Selling 4.2 Tonnes of produce
- Saving $28,700 worth 0f produce
- 76% shipped via Open Road
Strengthening Regional Economies
The pandemic highlighted the importance of Community Food Enterprises (CFEs) in maintaining food security. With support from the Working for Victoria Program (funded by the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions) we created a range of roles that supported regional food activation.
This included embedding 6 Regional Food Activators within four partner CFEs, which allowed for greater knowledge and resource sharing, as well as opportunities for collaboration and brokerage to occur.
This led to many innovative developments, including collaborative logistics pilot program Open Road, the ‘Like Peeling an Onion’ series of webinars, resources to support capacity in the sector and the launch of the Australian Community Food Enterprises Facebook Group.
Merri-Bek Food Hub Co-Design
We ran a community co-design process to understand the feasibility of a food hub to address food insecurity in the City of Merri-Bek (formally City of Moreland). The process surfaced bold community ambitions for a locally driven food hub however no organisation existed to drive its development.
Over the past year, we have been working with Merri-bek community members and the Council to implement the first steps towards a collaborative community food hub. The project has adopted Collective Impact methodology, which suggests having a backbone organisation to guide collective work with a shared measuring system for impact. To work towards this, we have helped to establish and support a Food Leadership Action Group (FLAG), that will serve as this backbone organisation.
We have supported the FLAG to begin developing a shared mission and governance structure, plus assisting the group to design and deliver a community grants seed funding program to advance the community food hub. The innovative granting process used a participatory budgeting approach to make collective decisions for the funding. We have also developed a Collective Impact Measurement Framework, co-designed with the group to reflect their ambitions for impact in the region.
Young Farmer Pathways
Agriculture Victoria engaged Open Food Network Australia to complete a research report on the alternative pathways (e.g. beyond inheritance) to farm business ownership in Victoria.
Research included a global literature review of successful models, analysis of local and global policies and regulations that can create an enabling environment for new and/or young farmers plus stakeholder interviews with farmers across varying scales and sectors of agriculture.
Based on our research, we focused on 5 models relevant for the context of Victorian farming and provided recommendations against each area.
Land Use Futures in Whittlesea
We were engaged by the City of Whittlesea to conduct a feasibility study of landsharing initiatives in their region to keep agricultural land in production and support a thriving local food economy.
We looked at best practice globally, and consulted with local farmers, landholders, and aspiring farmers to recommend a best fit for their region.
Fawkner Food with Dignity
Fawkner has the highest food insecurity of all suburbs in Merri-Bek, which was exacerbated by the COVID pandemic. With funding from VicHealth, and a collaboration with Fawkner Commons and Fair Share Fare, we were able to put in place a tiered pricing model using the Open Food Network software platform.
Tiered pricing and cross-subsidisation meant that those who could pay a bit more were able to, which helped improve access for those who couldn’t afford to pay the full amount.
Throughout the project, 752 people accessed food. The program promoted social inclusion and connectivity, with people coming together to share fresh, nourishing local produce. It also helped to remove some of the barriers in asking for help, and was instrumental in the seeding the establishment the Merri Food Hub.
Hepburn Food Hub
Hepburn Shire Council engaged us to bring together the local community to codesign a food hub. We drew on our past experience to help this Victorian community articulate the most important components of their hub, both physically and in terms of the impact it needed to have for local producers and eaters.
Following the workshop, we saw the community inspired into action, forming a steering committee to drive the project forward.
The Foodprint Melbourne project, based out of The University of Melbourne, is a co-design research project that aims to understand the resilience of Melbourne’s food system in response to specific shocks and stresses, such as the pandemic and bushfires.
We supported the project’s community co-design process, and guided the development of a roadmap, recommending how to help ensure Melbourne’s food system is more resilient in the face of future shocks.
Strengthening Victoria's Food Share Organisations
The Open Food Network contributed to a project led by Think Impact to better understand the value of Foodshare organisations in regional Victoria. As part of this project, we helped to conceptualise how these organisations and the community agencies and informal networks they work with are vital components in their respective regional food systems.
For instance, for every $1 in donations to a food share results in $66 worth of food going to those experiencing food insecurity. The report outlines strategic directions to build regional food resilience and impact through collaboration in the sector.
Land Use Futures
We continued our body of research work for the Climateworks Land Use Futures project. This involved defining agroecological production systems and compiling case studies representative of those systems.
Working with the Climateworks’ modelling team, we reviewed existing relevant research, and consulted experts to put quantitative values on the positive impacts of regenerative agriculture.
These values will be used to represent each of the diverse agro-ecological systems in modelling the potential impact of these systems in Australia’s land-use futures.
Participation in the project afforded us the opportunity to deepen our research capability in regenerative and agro-ecological systems and their role in climate mitigation and the future of food production.
Consensus Statement: Towards a Healthy, Regenerative and Equitable Food System in Victoria
During the pandemic, 23% of Victorians had to turn to low-cost, unhealthy foods because they could not access affordable healthy food.
Our broken food system is responsible for food insecurity, which is why we, along with 16 other organisations making up the Food Systems and Food Security Working group at VicHealth released a consensus statement on the matter.