From one small garden bed to feeding 120 people a week, the BEST Food Garden program has come a long way since it was established in 2012.
The program, a social impact initiative of BEST Employment, began in Inverell and has since grown to incorporate Moree, Glenn Innes and Tingha.
BEST Food garden is aimed at faciliating participation and engagement in meaningful activities for disadvantaged people, particularly those with a disability and the long-term unemployed.
These people tend to the garden in Inverell, growing fresh fruit and vegetables, which are then delivered to local pensioners and Aboriginal elders by people with disabilities at no cost.
BEST Employment social programs coordinator and food garden founder, Danny Middleton, said the program is very unique.
“We have disadvantaged groups growing the food which is delivered by people with disabilities to low income earners and pensioners at no cost,” he said.
“It’s all about building a stronger, more socially-inclusive community where everyone has the opportunity to participate. It benefits everyone.”
The program has been delivering to 10 people in Moree since last summer, with the help of Gwydir Industries, whose clients are involved in sorting and delivering the food.
Gwydir Industries supervisor Vera Jackson said the initiative is great, both for her clients with disabilities, as well as the people they deliver to.
She said the biggest benefit is the social interaction for both groups.
“It works both ways – the clients going in and talking to people and the people having visitors.
“Some people have family but don’t have people visit, so we call in and spend five minutes with them.
“Our guys really enjoy it.”
For the pensioners who get free, fresh food each week, the benefits are enormous.
“If we can save these pensioners $20 a week, that saves them,” Mr Middleton said.
Poppy Crottey has been receiving a weekly delivery since the service began in Moree. She said it’s fantastic.
“When you’re on a pension you can’t afford a lot of it,” she said. “And what I can’t use I give to my neighbours; I’ve got pensioners on both sides of me.
“I think it’s great what these people are doing. I’m really grateful.”