As many of you who have been on the Produce to the People journey over the last seven or so years would know, this organisation has been run as a pretty tight ship. We’ve been sniffing oily rags and gratefully receiving donations from the amazing and big hearted people of our community, with a single focus of getting fresh food to those who need it with love and respect.
It’s a funny old thing that the clear and present needs of real Tasmanian’s so often go unnoticed, despite how many times we tweet, blog, and write to politicians, and talk to community groups about our escalating customers, and our realistic costs to run the farm and the hub, with the same amount of staff it was started with when it was just me and the van dropping off excess produce grown in domestic gardens.
It was super disappointing for PttP to not be given any funding increase in the latest State budget. For total transparency we get $25,000 from the Tasmanian Government a year to be spent on emergency food relief. That might sound like a lot, but when you think about the cost of running a food hub operation, 2 acre farm, whilst experimenting with social enterprise ideas to ensure financial sustainability, and all of the behind the scenes activity, even managing a fleet of amazing volunteers, this doesn’t even cover minimum wages for one person, one day a week, let alone the other expenses.
And so, after many years of lobbying, and begging, and belt tightening, the reality is, we can’t keep the hub open at the same level – we simply don’t have the funding to do it. It breaks our heart, but we are like any business with expenses, inputs and outputs, insurance, and at the end of the working week, we don’t have any revenue coming in from the hundreds of kilos of food we distribute – because it’s given away. That’s what we do right?
We have some brilliant plans on how to make money and become self sufficient. But like everything else, we need people to implement them, and what we need is well beyond what we’d ask a volunteer to contribute. We need investment, and we need someone to get our back with an injection of funds that allow us to scale up our food growing operations, and scale up our value adding operations. With that, we could operate, become sustainable, and grow, gather and give more than we do now.
Our only option is to open one day a week to distribute food from the hub. That is all we can responsibly afford. As a Not-For-Profit social enterprise, we have to operate under certain legal guidelines, and one of them is operating solvently. In other words we have to have money in the bank to cover all our costs. If we want to keep operating, then we can only do the hub one day a week. So from July we will be open Tuesdays. We will still be at the farm growing and doing the hours of work needed behind the scenes to keep the hub full of fresh, free food, but there are no resources to open for longer.
We love our customers, our community and our volunteers. It is our deepest, most heartfelt wish that we can find the generous sponsorship needed, and achieve our dream of how this social enterprise can truly enrich the community with jobs, skills, free food and delicious value added products. We ask you to keep supporting us, and if you use our service, keep asking the question of your local members as to why we aren’t seen as an organisation valuable enough to support. Don’t worry, we haven’t given up on us, and hope you don’t either. Look forward to seeing you on Tuesdays.
Penelope Dodd, Founder + The Produce to the People Board
If you would like to make a donation – one off or ongoing – please head to our Give Now page. *We are working on gaining tax deductible gift status which means you can claim your donation. It hasn’t happened yet but the paperwork has been lodged.