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Community Food Issues

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Page Sections: Community Gardens | School Kitchen Gardens | Food Aid and Donation

Food Issues

Climate change poses a real threat to local food security, whilst unsustainable food systems make a significant contribution towards climate change. Council is working with the community, schools and a range of community organisations to improve access to locally grown fresh food and to make more sustainable food choices.

The Illawarra Biodiversity and Local Food Strategy for Climate Change is a joint project of Kiama, Shellharbour and Wollongong Councils supported by a grant from the NSW Environmental Trust’s Urban Sustainability Project. The project is a multi-level response to the emerging and urgent sustainability challenges posed by climate change and peak oil to local food security and biodiversity conservation.

The project will provide a regional framework for local food security. Community based activities and creative partnerships will support on-ground projects to actively engage the community in working towards a more equitable and sustainable local food system. It seeks to promote food production and consumption opportunities for local people that protect and promote health, are ecologically sustainable and socially equitable

Current Council projects include supporting community gardens and school kitchen gardens.

Community Gardens

A community garden is a not-for-profit, community-based enterprise producing food primarily for the consumption of the gardeners. Community gardens play a role in improving access to fresh locally grown food, as well as providing valuable recreational activity, social interaction and educational benefits for the local community. Community gardens make a valuable contribution in responding to the challenges of climate change as one means by which to reintegrate edible food plants into the urban landscape.

The utilisation of appropriate open space for community gardens is valued by Council for its contribution to the health and well-being of the wider community and the sustainability principles on which it is based.

Find Your Local Community Garden

There are a range of community gardens within the Illawarra on public and private land. The PDF icon Illawarra Community Gardens Directory provides contact details for local community gardens.

Starting a Community Garden

There are a lot of things to consider when thinking about starting a community garden, including where appropriate and available land can be found, who else will want to be part of your gardening group and the availability of skills within your group to develop and maintain the garden. Ideally a good site is accessible for all user groups, close to public transport and has access to sunlight and water.

Community Groups can apply to Council to use community land for the purpose of a community garden. The application process involves the Community Group assessing site suitability for a community garden, preparing a garden Plan of Management and demonstrating an appropriate group and garden management system. For more information, a factsheet and the relevant forms can be found below.

The Australian City Farms and Community Gardens Network website has fact sheets and guides about how to start and maintain a community garden.

School Kitchen Gardens

Many schools are integrating edible landscapes into their playgrounds to create outdoor classrooms and learning spaces.  School kitchen gardens that involve children in the design, maintenance, cultivation, harvesting and cooking process have been demonstrated to be excellent platforms for sustainability education and personal development.

The Illawarra Biodiversity and Local Food Strategy for Climate Change project has supported exciting new kitchen garden projects in the Illawarra.

Three new 'Living Classroom' school gardens were established to demonstrate the integration of permaculture principals into the daily life of a school - one in each of the partner Council local government areas.

Kiama Public School has transformed a disused area of the grounds into a thriving terraced garden, which was launched in November 2011 by Costa Georgiadis (ABC Gardening Australia), Mayor Sandra McCarthy, and Gareth Ward MP.  

Mount Terry Public School now has an integrated vegetable garden, orchard, outdoor learning area and swale creek bed covering more than 2000 square metres. This long, narrow site is already being used as a venue for community education and complements the school's extensive environmental initiatives including energy conservation and a flock of productive chickens.

Coledale Public School is small by comparison to many other schools, but the compact design is already hugely productive and a popular learning space.

How can Council help?

The Wollongong Botanic Garden is establishing a demonstration food garden adjacent to the Discovery Centre, with excellent composting and worm farming systems. There is a small fee per student for a facilitated excursion. Follow up visits to your school, with advice on your particular project, may also be possible. Contact Council on (02) 4227 7111 or the Discovery Centre on (02) 4229 2600 for more information.

Every year, Council hosts the Rise and Shine Environmental Awards to recognise the achievements of our local schools, community groups and individuals working towards a more sustainable future. School garden projects can enter to win cash prizes of up to $1,000. Call (02) 4227 7111 for more information.

What else is happening with school gardens in our region?

Through the 'Permaculture Partners' program, the Warrawong Community of Schools is running the Living Classroom project at six schools as part of a K-12 pathway.

For more details contact:

Cringila Public School
Ph: 4274 1786
Fax: 4276 2841
or web:

Warrawong High School
Ph: 4274 0707
Fax: 4276 2839
or web:

External Links

Grant Funding

Government Websites

Teaching Resources, Planning Tools, Case Studies

Food Aid and Donation

The Illawarra Councils have partnered under a NSW Environmental Trust grant to completely revise and update a third edition of the popular Low Cost and Free Meals Directory. The directory provides information on where to go to find a low cost or free meal, where to donate unwanted food, how to volunteer, and a summary of the legal liability issues for donating food for donors. 

OzHarvest is a charity that rescues excess food that would otherwise go to waste and distributes to it to those in need. Visit the website or call 02 9516 3877 to find out more about donating unexpected leftovers.

Related Forms and Factsheets

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