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     Better by the box

    Author | Alecia Wood
    Image credit | organic angels

    We’re a time-poor folk these days, so how can we get behind producers growing their food sustainably without sacrificing convenience?

    Produce boxes are one solution. While there are plenty of businesses delivering fresh fruit and veg straight to your door, some are taking extra steps to support sustainable farming practices.

    Launched in 2010, Food Connect sells boxes filled with produce sourced within 250 kilometres of the Sydney CBD. If low food miles aren’t enticing enough, their goods are also either certified organic or chemical-free, and it’s a business strongly focused on ethics – for every dollar you spend, 40 cents is returned back to their growers. The contents of boxes change with the seasons and they are collected from local drop-off points, so there’s no need to wait in line at the grocery store.

    According to Food Connect General Manager, Julian Lee, their social enterprise approach helps build a stronger connection between consumer and producer. “We are a middle man, however there is generally only one person in the middle distributing, as opposed to many, many organisations within the supply chain,” he says. “Because we communicate directly with producer and consumer, we can pass on real stories about real food and farmers.”

    While large supermarket chains continue to influence the nature of consumer access to produce, Lee explains the importance of creating a diverse food system that supports small-scale producers. “[Produce] box services offer market for suppliers, so smaller suppliers can produce unusual items that large distributors don’t accept. These large systems are also vulnerable to crises, such as the impact of the volcanic eruptions in 2010 in Iceland, which disrupted air traffic and the food distribution that relied on it.”

    Jayne Travers-Drapes echoes this call for more variety in the marketplace. “This movement is in its early stages. It’s giving people an alternative way to shop,” she says of the increasing demand for her sustainable produce boxes. Co-founder of Harvest Hub, a produce box business selling pesticide-free and spray-free goods from predominantly New South Wales and Australia, Travers-Drapes emphasizes the educational effect of such a set-up. “With us, people learn to eat seasonally. When you’re living in a fast-paced city, you lose that natural rhythm.”

    Like Food Connect, Harvest Hub aims to build community alongside their business activities. Take their ‘hubster’ in Manly Vale, who takes food every week to cook meals at the local Salvation Army outpost. “In my mind, you cannot live in harmony unless you can sit at the dinner table and at that table you speak and share and love,” says Travers-Drapes. “Having a hub is the same – you feel like you’re part of something that’s going to make a difference.”

    Looking for a more sustainable produce box option in your area? Get in touch with these businesses in each state capital.

    NSW | Food Connect Sydney and Harvest Hub

    NT | Greenies Real Food

    Delivering to local, rural and remote areas, organic produce and many more items can be ordered from the online outlet of this Rapid Creek organic and health foods shop.

    QLD | Food Connect Brisbane 

    Elder sibling to Food Connect Sydney, the Queensland outpost distributes sustainable produce boxes plus other edibles like honey, bread and eggs via more than 50 of their ‘City Cousin’ collection points.

    SA | Jupiter Creek Farm

    Collect one of three different sized seasonal produce boxes each week from this community-supported agriculture initiative in the Adelaide Hills, whose supplies are sourced from their own and nearby organic farms.

    TAS | Source Wholefoods

    For $20 or $40, sign up to receive a minimum of four weeks of seasonal produce boxes from local organic farmers, which are collected each Wednesday from this food co-op in Sandy Bay.

    VIC | CERES Fair Food

    Find a range of produce box sizes and styles from this ‘local, organic, sustainable, fair’ food supplier, which delivers to a range of collection points across Melbourne from Montmorency to Albion.

    WA | The Organic Collective

    Goods from direct suppliers and daily market visits are combined to create the seasonal produce boxes ordered from this organic food shop in Perth.

    Alecia Wood is a Sydney-based freelance food and sustainability writer, with work published in ABC Radio National Online, ABC Organic Gardener online, The Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food and Broadsheet Sydney. Passionate about encouraging consumers to support and shape a more sustainable, secure food system, she is also a co-leader of the Youth Food Movement’s Sydney chapter and in 2013 completed the Centre for Sustainability Leadership’s annual fellowship program. 

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