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Mernda food market relief strengthens community

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Pam Kiriakidis
Pam Kiriakidis
Pam Kiriakidis has worked as a journalist at the North Central Review since 2022, with a particular focus on the City of Whittlesea and stories for the Whittlesea Review. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Media and Communications majoring in journalism and focuses on politics, community, and health with the occasional niche sports story finding its way in front of her.

By Pam Kiriakidis

COMMUNITY connection was the theme at the Whittlesea Pop-up Food Relief market, which helped 120 registered participants with financial stress at Mernda Community House last week.   

Whittlesea Emergency Relief Network, which consists of several community services in the City of Whittlesea, facilitates the markets to offer a range of services and advice about financial counselling, employment, and volunteering across the municipality.   

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Whittlesea Community Connections, a community-based organisation that has provided free legal services for more than 40 years, coordinated with Mernda Community House to deliver the market, supported by a grant through the Department of Families, Fairness, and Housing.

Whittlesea Community Connections team leader Gennette Beguely said the food market relief aimed to build pathways between community organisations and residents who may need the extra help due to the high cost of living.  

“There’s a lot of people that are really struggling to deal with the increase in all the basic essentials of your life and it’s placing people under quite a lot of financial stress,” she said.  

“It wasn’t just about providing food relief, it’s also about connecting people to other services and support.  

“We had some Jobs Victoria advocates that came along to the market, they support people with employment, volunteering, and training opportunities.”  

Ms Beguely said community connection was a priority at the market, allowing people to build relationships through the market’s sausage sizzle.

“There’s a lot of people out there that are really isolated and it’s a great opportunity for them to connect with others, and also connect with Mernda Community House [that] run a range of different programs in groups every day of the week, so it’s a good opportunity for people to know about,” she said.  

A food literacy stall was set up on the day, introducing food knowledge to participants with vegetables and fruits from Eden Garden Fresh Market.  

“We were doing potting with different types of herbs that people could pot and then take home and try to grow themselves,” she said.

“It’s just increasing people’s awareness around educating people on how to start a vegetable garden, how to grow your own food, how to reduce food waste, composting.  

“We’re also really trying to build up local business as well, people are still kind of coming back from the impact of COVID and have affected small businesses.”  

After four markets across the City of Whittlesea, Ms Beguely said the outcome had been highly positive for residents experiencing financial hardship.  

“Feedback so far from the Mernda market and all four markets have been incredibly positive, it has made a huge difference to people that are accessing the support,” she said.

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