Ballarat's Food is Free Laneway - RNY News

Ballarat's Food is Free Laneway

November 12, 2018

Liam Taylor

Lou Ridsdale founded Food is Free Laneway in October 2014 as a space for people to drop off or collect surplus nutritious food (veggies, fruit, herbs etc) for free and connect with the neighbourhood.

On a per capita basis, Australia wastes more food than any other nation in the world – a colossal 361kg per person each year. About 4,000,000 tonnes of food is wasted each year, worth about 8 billion dollars.  When food rots with other organics in landfill it releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Not only this, when you throw out food you also waste the water, fuel and resources it took to produce that food and transport it to your plate.  After learning of the issue and being inspired by founder of Food is Free USA John VanDeusen, Lou Ridsdale of Ballarat founded Food is Free Laneway in October 2014. The Laneway was designed as a space for people to drop off or collect surplus nutritious food (veggies, fruit, herbs etc) for free and connect with the neighbourhood. 

The Laneway also has educational value via displaying how to grow your own food, and access to free seedlings and seeds for persons to take with them to start their own garden to empower them and help them become self-sufficient.

In 2016 the project was expanded to include the Food is Free Green Space, which provides garden beds for at risk/marginalized persons to garden and grow their own food, plus learn skills that can be applied to other areas of life. Today the two spaces operate under the name Food Is Free Inc. after Lou saw a need to create a not-for-profit from the success of the space and positive community response.  All Food Is Free projects are run by an amazing group of passionate and committed volunteers and committee members. Food Is Free relies on the generosity of the community to sustain itself and gratefully accepts donations no matter how big or small.   New research released by Planet Ark reveals that whilst half of us dispose of kitchen waste in a more environmentally friendly method than landfill, councils identified food and organic waste services as currently the most in demand waste service. Furthermore, one in four councils see food and organic waste management as the next big waste issue in Australia.  Planet Ark’s Senior Recycling Programs Coordinator Claire Bell said that with the average household bin containing up to 40% food waste, community-led initiatives such as the Food is Free project are an integral part of the recycling equation.  “Food waste is an extremely important part of recycling, even though we might not think of it as a recycling issue. Diverting this waste from landfill and recycling it into a valuable product would have a huge impact on Australia’s waste issues while also reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.” 

Visit? more information on this grassroots organisation or to find out how to get involved.

Liam Taylor

Prior to joining Planet Ark Liam spent his time studying global environmental issues, travelling Southeast Asia on the cheap and working for a sustainable property management company in Bali, Indonesia. Joining the communications team at Planet Ark, he hopes to inspire positive environmental behaviour through effective and positive messaging.