A Victorian Government grant of $134,000 is helping to make Hepburn Shire an innovation hub supporting a new facility which connects the community, schools, local producers, and business while creating new jobs.

Sustainable Healthy Integrated Food Towns (SHIFT) is a social enterprise which aims to create a healthy food system that includes farm-gate sales, aquaponics for fish and herbs, and biogas for energy, along with a commercial kitchen designed to provide healthy lunches for community facilities such as early childhood centres, schools and businesses.

Hepburn Shire Council auspiced the project led by Health Future Australia, a local not-for-profit health promotion charity, in partnership with international vegetable seed producers Rijk Zwaan and the Daylesford Foundation.

The grant funding will support the development of a business case to establishing a SHIFT hub, bringing agriculture, hospitality, educators, and the community together under one roof.

SHIFT has already established Young Growers programs to teach young people about growing and harvesting fresh produce and has been operating a Healthy Lunch Kitchen to provide nutritious school lunches made with locally grown produce.

“SHIFT Hepburn ties in closely with our aspiration to increase healthy eating, which is one of the key focus areas in our Municipal Public Health and Wellbeing Plan,” said Mayor, Cr Tim Drylie. “This is an exciting opportunity for our Shire to lead the way and increase access to healthy, affordable, local and sustainable foods,” he said.

The vision is for SHIFT Hepburn to establish and build new and existing supply chains for local producers, link business and community members, provide new services to schools and the community, along with new jobs and local career pathways.

The project links strongly to Council Municipal Health and Wellbeing Plan, developed throughout 2021 which identified increasing healthy eating as one of the four priority areas. The project will also have possible linkages to other Council projects including Artisan Agriculture Project and the Institute of Gastronomy.

The grant will be used to develop a detailed business case, investment strategies and design to build the SHIFT facility. The funding was provided through the Victorian Government’s Investment Fast Track Fund through Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund.

Singapore trained chef, Pamelia Chia, prepares lunches.