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The Hills Food Frontier

food builds COMMUNITY

Long-time EG contributor, Bob Rich of Healesville, interviews Ros Carter, a founder of a brilliant community food-sharing project.

MORE than 300 places around the world have transformed neighbourhoods into communities through ‘Food is Free’ projects. You can check them out at There are several in Australia, with the movement spreading.

Ros Carter is from The Hills Food Frontier (THFF) in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne. THFF started in 2014, and has many achievements. One is Food is Free Tecoma. People put excess vegetables, and even cooked meals, into a Coolgardie safe, a fridge, and bread-boxes on the verandah of the Uniting Church in the hills village of Tecoma. It is well used on a daily basis by the community and is open 24/7. Their motto is: “Take what you need, leave what you don’t, share what you have with love.” The bakery and other businesses also regularly contribute. It’s not only for locals. Ros told me they often find lovely messages of gratitude from strangers.

Here is a typical daily post on their Facebook page: “Food Is Free Tecoma is rocking today, lots of healthy food and even homemade soup in the freezer, love our community. Always open, please spread the word.”

Ros has added me to The Hills Food Frontier’s newsletter emailing list. If you’re considering setting up a Food is Free project (and whyever not?), you will find this publication inspirational and informative. (Email:

The latest issue mentioned the second year of a project with kids at a nearby high school and a primary school growing vegetables, then donating their produce to needy people. It also announces their 2019 project: making Kallista into an ‘edible village’: an inspirational, sustainable, thriving food destination.

I’m amused at the name of another THFF project: the FLAME garden and edible forest. The name is an acronym for Food, Life, Art, Music and Education, but reminds me that the Dandenongs are extremely flame-prone every summer. People teach, help and support each other in growing food, while having fun with music and art. Free seeds are available.

This vigorous community runs informative workshops, help each other on both an organised and casual basis, and have a lot of fun doing so.

What do you need to transform your local community in this way? Ros says: “It’s really quite easy once you have a site and a few people keen to help. You can find registration details at Set up a Facebook page and engage with your community. Consider a site which is obvious but safe, such as outside a community house. Ours is at the Uniting Church, and people involved with that keep an eye on it. The project will only work if local people want it, and it can take a while to build so don’t be disheartened if it is not well used initially. Oh, and make sure it’s wildlife-proof!” Food is Free Tecoma is run by four people, but assisted by many more. Hundreds benefit.


Merryn Griffiths, the driving force behind the establishment of ‘Food is Free Tecoma’.






Some of the THFF team celebrating after reaching 1000 likes on their Facebook page.

THFF has mentored a number of similar projects elsewhere. You can look up their Facebook group page, and you can email: