HOME growers of fresh food, edible plants and seedstock are invited to bring, exchange and give away their bounty at the new Produce Swap Trolley parked outside Manna Gum Community House in Foster.
The cream weatherboard trolley, with its tall display alcove sheltered by a corrugated steel roof and a clear awning, stands on its own concrete rectangle on the corner of Court Street and Station Road, just near Manna Gum’s main entrance.
Inside is a kaleidoscope of colour: the bright hues of citrus fruits; scarlet and yellow rainbow chard; dark red lettuces, the green leaves of thyme, parsley, kale, kohlrabi and strawberry seedlings; the olive—dappled orange of a sturdy pumpkin.
Next to a sign reading “bring what you can, take what you need” is a small fridge serving as a cupboard to hold packets of vegetable, herb and flower seeds, with the relevant cultivation notes on each.
Manna Gum Community House manager Rebecca Matthews said the Produce Swap Trolley provides an easy, effective and centrally-located way for local community members to share their homegrown fruit and vegies.
The trolley was built by local builder Roopa and its final touches were completed by Manna Gum Community House volunteer Andreas Moller.
The blind protecting the trolley and its contents from the weather and animals was donated by Mitre 10 Hardware at Leongatha.
The trolley came about as the result of Manna Gum receiving the offer of funding via a Victorian Government initiative promoting better health through good nutrition, combined with a kindly, public-spirited and practical idea.
“This opportunity landed on Manna Gum’s doorstep when South Coast Primary & Community Partnership (PCP) health promotion officer Beth Allan got in touch with us last year,” Rebecca said.
“Beth told us PCP had some funds available for neighbourhood and community houses like Manna Gum to build infrastructure or run programs to support healthy eating options in the community.
“When we heard about this funding from PCP we had just started a partnership with Project GreenPlot and installing a Produce Swap Trolley was on their wish-list for their work with Community House,” she said.
“Project GreenPlot is a local group of domestic gardeners who put aside a small plot of their garden to grow food for the community or donate surplus produce when they have it.
“Project GreeenPlot was established by Manna Gum management committee member Elizabeth Collins, who was the one who first thought of the trolley and what a benefit to the community it would be,” Rebecca said.
“We saw the PCP funding as an opportunity to support the work of Project GreenPlot as well as a great fit for our food programs at Manna Gum.”
PCP’s health promotion officer Beth said “we have been working together with neighbourhood houses across South Gippsland and Bass Coast to find ways that help our community to access healthy options at the houses.
“We are so excited to see Manna Gum Community House introduce this new initiative that heroes fresh produce and encourages community connections.
“This new produce trolley at Manna Gum not only acts as a food relief service, but also as a community-led produce swap,” she said.
“Sharing produce helps to increase access to a diversity of produce, reduces food wastage and helps people to feel more connected to their community.”
The Produce Swap Trolley first arrived in its position outside Manna Gum in early July, and in the couple of weeks since there has already been a great deal of interest from the local community, with a constant flow and ebb of fresh fruit, herbs and vegetables.
Project GreenPlot founder Elizabeth said “certainly our Plotters are glad there’s another option for them to share their homegrown food with the community.
“People like to share, and now we have a dedicated space that’s easily accessed,” she said.
“We’re looking forward to seeing how it works best and adding to what’s on offer over time so more locals can benefit, in lots of ways.”
• Manna Gum Community House manager Rebecca Matthews, Manna Gum management committee member and Project GreenPlot founder Elizabeth Collins, and South Coast Primary & Community Partnership (PCP) health promotion officer Beth Allan with the Produce Swap Trolley outside Manna Gum in Foster.