Our Story

As a not-for-profit social enterprise, we’ve been growing and innovating to serve Melbourne communities since in 2014.

 
 

It all started with…

A vision of food for healthy connected communities. The aim was to increase access to fresh, affordable produce and to create a community-led sustainable fresh food access model that was all about dignity and nutrition and moved beyond the typical welfare style of handing out free food.

A 12-week volunteer-run pilot was first run by Russell at the Collingwood housing estate in November 2013. After a positive evaluation and great feedback by the local community, a City of Melbourne Social Enterprise Grant was received, and The Community Grocer was born...

Our first market – Carlton

The first market run by The Community Grocer was established in August 2014 by Russell and Dori. Operating in Carlton, the market was established in the public housing estate on Lygon St. This setting was selected because it was a small pocket of disadvantage located within a broader context of wealth. Because of this, it was difficult for public housing residents to afford to purchase fresh food locally – it was an affordable fresh food desert. A regular local fresh food market would help to address access and food security, as well as provide an opportunity to build community in a disengaged space.

This market is still running today and is a weekly buzz of activity.

We then opened in Fawkner…

The Community Grocer was approached by Merri Health who asked if another market could be set up in Fawkner. The Community Grocer saw an opportunity to expand the model in partnership with a well-respected local organisation and in a targeted area for low income communities. In late 2015, the Fawkner Market was launched as a franchise market, run by Merri Health under the Community Grocer banner. In 2018 a joint decision was made to transfer management to The Community Grocer.

And then we went out to Mernda…

In 2016, we were approached by Jindi Early Learning and the Whittlesea Council to establish a market in Mernda. We developed a working group with several local organisations who had a range of connections and resources, and the market was established to service a new growth area where community members are often time poor and lacking affordable access to fresh produce.

Unfortunately, the Mernda market was not having the desired impact in the community and closed in 2018.

Then we headed back in to Fitzroy…

The Community Grocer launched the Fitzroy market at the Atherton Gardens estate in March 2017, with support from the City of Yarra and Cultivating Community. This almost felt like coming home, as the Grocer model is loosely based on an original market that operated at the estate and was managed by Cultivating Community over a decade ago.

This market continues to grow as the community become more activated and take ownership of the space.

And then out west to Wyndham…

The Wyndham market was a funding opportunity presented by Open Food Network (OFN) who were aware of the work we were undertaking in the community. OFN supported a market for a pilot period of three months, and the market was launched in August 2017.

The Community Grocer established a market for three months in partnership with several local organisations, hoping to gain enough traction and support to continue for the long term. We extended the pilot for ten weeks, but it proved harder than we first thought. We learnt a lot and unfortunately the market closed after the pilot period.

And back to the high rise at Flemington…

This market was launched at the Flemington Estate in January 2018 with support from the City of Moonee Valley. Back into a public housing estate, there was a lot of excitement from the local community when we opened. We began working very closely with the Flemington Community Centre located on the estate, as well as several other local organisations.

After an evaluation report in 2019 showed that the Flemington community is already well serviced with affordable produce, we made a hard decision to close the market.

And then out to new growth area of Pakenham…

The Pakenham market was established in partnership with Sustain – The Australian Food Movement. The project is part of a larger food system focus in the City of Cardinia. This market was launched in March 2018.

Working closely with the local Living Learning Centre and Community Garden, we found a great spot to hold the market, central to local community needs. Being close to some great nearby farms, we are also sourcing some pretty awesome fresh produce directly.

Stay tuned for more markets openings soon...