A social enterprise in Hepburn is being supported to better connect local food producers with businesses and the community through Victorian Government funding.

Minister for Regional Development Mary-Anne Thomas last week met with Health Futures Australia, a not-for-profit which will develop a business case to expand its ‘Sustainable Healthy Integrated Food Towns’ or ‘SHIFT’, in Hepburn through the Labor Government’s Investment Fast Track Fund.

Partnering with international vegetable and seed producers Rijk Zwaan and the Daylesford Foundation, Health Futures Australia aims to create a healthy food system that includes farm-gate sales, aquaponics for fish and herbs, and biogas for energy.

With support from Rijk Zwaan, SHIFT has already established a Young Growers initiative to teach young people about growing and harvesting fresh produce.

The social enterprise has also developed a Healthy Lunch Kitchen to provide nutritious school lunches made with locally grown produce while also teaching kids where their food comes from.

The business case is the next step towards establishing a SHIFT hub, bringing agriculture, hospitality, educators, and the community together under one roof.

The Government is ensuring Hepburn becomes a go-to foodie destination through other projects including the Institute of Gastronomy and Good Food.

Business case planning for the Institute has been supported by the Enabling Tourism Fund and the project has the potential to house a culinary school, agribusiness entrepreneurship institute and an exhibition and function space – anticipated to inject up to $22 million into the local economy each year.

The fund is part of the Government’s flagship $156 millionRegional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund which helps businesses create more jobs in regional Victoria and supports councils to build the infrastructure locals and visitors need.

The Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund is central to the Victorian Government’s almost $30 billion investment in rural and regional Victoria since 2015. More information can be found at rdv.vic.gov.au/rjif.