Won’t be the same

On Thursday Fair Food grocery orders were delivered to our Food Host pick-up points for the last time.

Over 2020 as we locked down and opted for the safety of a home delivery our fifty Food Hosts went predictably quiet.

This year as things started to get back to normal we waited and watched to see if people would come back to their Food Hosts.

Things were quiet in January and then there was the snap lockdown in Feburary but as March and April passed by our Food Hosts stayed quiet.

In the first week of May when only forty-nine people picked up their groceries from a Food Host we made the hard decision to close them.

A Brief History of CERES Food Hosts

Back in 2010 when online grocery delivery wasn’t really a big thing yet, CERES Fair Food launched a service offering a weekly delivery of organic veggie boxes and groceries to a local neighbourhood Food Host.

Putting the word out on photocopied posters and articles in community newspapers we went looking for folks with a spare verandah or shed for their neighbours to pick up a Fair Food box from each week.

The response was overwhelming – dozens and dozens of people put their hands up wanting to connect with their community and support CERES’ sustainability and social missions.

For the first three years everyone’s delivery went to a Food Host – at its peak there were 75 Food Hosts operating across Melbourne.

But as Fair Food grew people began telling us they couldn’t always get to their Food Host and so we began home deliveries.

The convenience came at cost and Food Host numbers gradually declined to a steady few hundred each week – but then COVID came and changed everything.

Virginia Lowe, who has been a Food Host in Ormond for ten years, shared this….

I’m sad hosting is finished. It’s the end of an era for us.               

I’ve always struggled with the big supermarkets (poor treatment of producers, replacement of staff by automation, sweets at a child’s eye-level, unethical investments in pokies). So as soon as my next-door neighbour in Ormond started using CERES Fair Food in early 2011, I started to use them too. 

For the first six months we went to a Food Host in Murrumbeena, but by November a host position was available, so I took it and have hosted for the ten years since.

Eventually there were up to twenty-four people collecting boxes from our carport. Many of them stopped and chatted with each other and with me. In warm weather, I‘d take a chair out to the carport, with a book, and chat with customers when they came.

Sometimes people collecting set boxes would say ‘the kids just won’t eat this. You have it’ and I’d either use it or give it to the families on either side. With multiple kids they were always pleased to accept extra.

 I took young ones who came with their mothers to meet our chooks and take an egg from the nest. One family moving to Castlemaine gave me their precious herbs all potted up, to plant in our veggie patch.  It was a real community.

Very occasionally someone would take something belonging to someone else (usually from the communal cooler box) and I’d have to phone them and CERES to sort it all out. The most common problem was forgotten boxes, and if it were to be very hot the next day I would put goods from the communal cooler into my fridge till they came the next morning.

When home deliveries started, numbers dropped off. Only a couple of people collect from our op-shop table in the carport now, and I miss the sociability once a week. I’ve still got my friends among CERES’ receptionists and drivers, the buyer and the host-manager too, and of course enjoy the fresh delicious fruit veggies and dairy products.

Sometimes I give a Fair Food gift card for a present. I’ve even asked my students (I tutor Creative Writing) to try Ceres Fair Food, rather than give me an end-of-year present.

I care desperately about the Earth and how we are treating it, and am happy to pay for someone I trust to do the product investigations I couldn’t do myself. I also care about asylum seekers, and feel happy that a third of Fair Food’s staff are asylum seekers or new migrants.

I think all Melbournites who care about the Earth should offer the big charities a bit less and support the good CERES are doing locally…..

Since we announced the closure earlier this month Food Hosts have shared many stories like Virginia’s.

Food Hosts and what they represent are a defining part of CERES Fair Food’s story.

To Virginia and all the Food Hosts who have given their time and shared their homes, offices, schools and businesses to help thousands of us access our groceries over the last eleven years, I’d like to say thank you, Fair Food won’t be the same without you.

All our best

Chris

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