About FCF

The Food Connect Foundation (FCF) is a not-for-profit registered charity committed to building the foundations of new regenerative food systems.

Founded in 2009, FCF builds upon the pioneering achievements of the award-winning social enterprise, Food Connect, that accumulated close to two decades of extensive experience and expertise in delivering positive outcomes in food systems change.

We establish and nurture initiatives that make transformation possible. We pilot social enterprises, support growers, and promote food systems transformation through consultancy, advocacy and education.

Recognised as pioneers of the local food movement in Australia, FCF's leaders bring over 30 years of experience in community-led food enterprises. They have nurtured, mentored, and connected individuals across various sectors, including growers, finance, academia, communities, activists, and policymakers. This breadth and depth of experience gives them a unique understanding of the importance of demonstrating projects within communities, while balancing impact investment outcomes.

The Food Connect Foundation can trace its roots right back to Robert Pekin's journey of resilience and innovation, characteristics that still underpin all of our work today.

More than two decades ago, facing the loss of his family's fourth-generation farm, Robert sought solutions to reconnect consumers with farmers while addressing the impacts of climate change. This endeavour resulted in the creation of award-winning social enterprise Food Connect, an initiative driven by the same sentiment that has fuelled our innovative place-based approaches to community food enterprises over the last 20 years. Driven to share knowledge and empower communities all over the nation, FCF was formed in 2009 as a response to growing demand from community groups and growers.

Based on mobilising good food communities through Food Connect (one of the first community-supported agriculture models in Australia), and building on FCF's advocacy-based projects across the nation, we led a passionate community of supporters (512 of them, in fact) to purchase the Food Connect Shed after an equity crowdfunding campaign in 2018, creating Australia's first community owned local food hub.

Today, FCF is continuing in its mission to regenerate food systems, whether that's through facilitating community-led infrastructure or connecting leaders in the movement, we're working towards a world where everyone can benefit from a healthy, resilient and secure food future.

We co-create regenerative food, landscapes and communities for future generations.

Our mission is to create a new regenerative food system by incubating social enterprises and collaborating with food system leaders to develop initiatives that support food communities (growers, value-adders, distributors, marketers and eaters) through education, awareness and advocacy.

We work to create food systems that nurture:

  • Sustainable and regenerative food systems. Reducing reliance on concentrated and monopolised distribution and wholesale channels.
  • Community ownership structures and governance models that include First Nations terms of reference to inform decision making, ‘mission locks’ and ‘golden shares' to protect purpose and mission.
  • Improvements in the health of the land and natural ecosystems. Working with growers to reduce water insecurity, biodiversity loss, monocrops and overuse of synthetic chemicals
  • Mitigation of climate change impacts. Creating regional food chains and networks, with less impact on the environment (energy, waste and emissions), and more resilient to geopolitical pressures.
  • Thriving regional economies. Moving toward sustainable livelihoods along the supply chain, free of volatile market forces and powerful strongholds.
  • Connected and resilient communities. Educating and inspiring people on the benefits of  agro-ecological practices that support them.
  • Improved human health and wellbeing. Ensuring nutrient dense food supply chains that create connection and increase wellbeing.

…and the way that our activities have done this, and the communities and ecosystems built along the way, has been likened to the mycelium you can see featured in our logo. To see how we step out this analogy with our work, click here.

FCF has been a driving force for systemic change in food and agriculture and has actively campaigned with fair food initiatives to promote regenerative food systems. Here are some of the positive impacts we've achieved through our various initiatives:

  • Shared knowledge and business models of place-based food system transformation with many communities across the nation.
  • Delivered workshops to many communities in all six states and the ACT.
  • Mentored hundreds of food systems leaders and collaborators.
  • Co-founded the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance, the Australian Food Hubs Network, ORICoop, Open Food Network, and the Brisbane Fair Food Alliance.
  • Worked with First Nations leaders to embed Indigenous terms of reference into our governance process.
  • Innovated financial models to create Australia's first community-owned food hub, Food Connect Shed.
  • Initiated a community-scale grain milling enterprise Salisbury Mill.
  • Increases soil health awareness across industry and consumers through the healthy soils program and the initiation of the annual Humungous Fungus award. 

fcb journey

  • Established Food Connect, a social enterprise which ran for 18 years. 
    • We reduced the weekly distance of customer shopping baskets - food miles averaged 140 km compared to the national average of 1,200 km.
    • This not only minimised carbon emissions but also supported over 200 local farmers and food makers with fair prices.
    • The enterprise turned over $32 million in revenue, creating up to a four-fold multiplier benefit to the region's economy. 
    • Employment creation and business development support - our work created 30 permanent jobs and incubated 15 food entrepreneurs.
    • Commercial supply of fresh food into communities - supplying 45 buyers clubs, restaurants, and cafes - local, nutritious food reached thousands of households weekly, impacting community health and wellbeing.

Social Ventures Australia conducted two assessments of Food Connect's Social Impact since its establishment in 2005, revealing a significant return on investment: in 2007, the Social Return on Investment (SROI) was $1:$35, and in 2011, it was refined to $1:$16.83. Read the full report here.

FCF is proud to be part of a wider and growing movement of food system innovators and change makers. Working in the open is a reciprocal process that helps grow that movement. We currently partner with the following organisations working to transform our food systems:

FCF has a long history of assisting research in food systems transformation through our relationships with the following institutions:

  • School of Sociology, University of Queensland
  • Cities Research Institute, Griffith University
  • National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Queensland University of Technology
  • The Centre for Urban and Regional Studies, University of Newcastle
  • Food Systems Horizons, CSIRO
  • School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University

For a literature review of relevant publications, please see here.

FCF is a not-for-profit, registered charity with the Australian Charities and Non-for-profits Commission and is governed by an active Board of Directors, with assistance from key advisors. The current members of the board are:

 

Robert Pekin - Co-Founder, Executive Director

Robert Pekin

Over the past 30 years Robert has been working to transform the food and agricultural system in Australia. As a former organic dairy farmer and market gardener he's become known as a practical and hands-on social entrepreneur and thought leader working at the coalface of food systems change. In 2004 he founded Food Connect, a dynamic multi-farmer food distribution enterprise with an innovative community-based distribution system. In 2009, the Food Connect Foundation was launched to grow the fair food movement across Australia. In 2018, he co-founded the Food Connect Shed to raise over $2million with the community to buy their rented warehouse through an equity crowdfunding campaign. Rob is a well known speaker in the good food and farming movement, and lives in magan-djin/Brisbane with his family.

Robert is a member of the advisory board of Sustainable Table, sits on the Members Council of Regen Farmers Mutual, is a co-founder of the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance, and a founding member on the board of Open Food Network.

 

Emma-Kate Rose - Co-Founder, Executive Director and Co-Chair

Ek R2024

Emma-Kate (or EK for short) is currently the Executive Director of the Food Connect Foundation d​rawing on over 30 years’ experience working in community, business, social enterprise, climate change activism, food justice and bottom-up economic development.

She joined Food Connect in 2009 as General Manager, and co-founded Food Connect Foundation and Food Connect Shed - a community-owned local food hub.

EK holds a Bachelor of Justice Studies, is a Fellow of the Yunus Centre for Social Business at Griffith University, and past-President of the Queensland Social Enterprise Council.

Kel O'Neill - Co-Chair

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Kel is a Wiradjuri man, father and grand father, born and raised in Dubbo, NSW. Kel brings many years of experience in program management, development and service delivery; working with Indigenous organisations and communities; and vocational education training. He is particularly passionate about the potential of Salisbury Mill and connecting with native grains growers.

 

Jessica Dale - Treasurer

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With 10 years' legal and policy experience, Jessica Dale has experience in diverse and complex international contexts. Jessica works on all aspects of project development and management from strategy, funding and partnerships to execution and implementation. Jessica has broad international experience across sustainability, climate policy, food security, trade and access to nutrition.

Jessica joins FCF's board after several years working in France and across Africa for one of the world's largest globalised food companies, Danone. Combining her loves of food, hospitality, advocacy and policy, Jessica is deeply motivated to help advocate for a resilient food and agriculture system. 

 

Geoff Ebbs - Company Secretary

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Geoff has 40 years experience in startups across technology, media, and eco-products building ventures like the One Stop Green Shop and Byron Bay Green Building Company that supported and nurtured a range of startups into capital cities. That became the foundation of his organisation, Ebono Institute. With a background in media, Geoff has worked in community radio at Bay-FM in Byron and 4ZZZ in Brisbane, both as an on-air presenter and committee member.

Geoff is using his real world experience at Griffith University’s Business School, where he’s researching how governments and public infrastructure can support and nurture grassroots efforts through providing intermediary services.

 

Andrew Chamberlin - Director

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Andrew is a sustainability practitioner who's been working with businesses, farms and all levels of government on sustainability and energy for 30 years. Through the ecoBiz Program and Queensland Farmers’ Federation, Andrew's worked & lead initiatives with hundreds of SMEs, including circular economy trials, climate risk assessment and waste assessments.

Practical and hands-on, Andrew is a systems thinker, passionate about efficiency, sustainability and productivity. Andrew's depth and breadth of experience includes regional climate transition projects and feasibility studies for large urban and regional energy projects. Community is as important as sustainability to Andrew, he's volunteered in junior sport for over ten years raising grants and managing the projects as well as coaching and managing junior club and representative teams.

Andrew and his wife Meriel are parents of two teenagers and run a BCorporation business, Limebranch, business sustainability consulting and in practice with Full Circle Fibres, Australia's first paddock to product cotton supply chain in the last decade; single-source cotton yarns, fabrics and garments traceable back to a farm in St George, QLD.

 


All board members and advisors are required to undertake cultural competency training in line with FCF's understanding that food systems change intersects with Indigenous foodways, and cannot happen without respectful and reciprocal relationships with South East Queensland's diverse community of First Nations people.

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