An Update from Food Ladder

Well, 2021 certainly has been an ‘interesting’ year thus far.

Where ever you are in the world, all of us at Food Ladder hope you and your family are keeping well. Despite the COVID outbreaks and border shutdowns around Australia, we at Food Ladder have been resilient thanks to our staff being spread across the nation and a robust rollout strategy underway. While we have had to pivot from time to time to adjust to the changing conditions, we are on track to deliver seven Food Ladder school systems before the end of the year which is a testament to the hard work and resilience of our fabulous team.

Today, Nigel McLean, our Program Manager is building the Food Ladder system in the remote WA community of Leonora. Leonora Primary School was the winner of Food Ladder’s National School Competition which amassed applications from over 50 schools in remote communities in Australia, all of whom noted a serious need for fresh, locally grown produce. We would like to thank our judges Paris Neilson, Alexandra Giles and Candice Van Doosselaere for their time and careful consideration of the applications.Profiled in The Australian newspaper,  Indigenous Affairs reported, Paige Taylor said:

“Children in the West Australian outback town of Leonora are about to make radical change to the way their town gets its food.The desert center 830km northeast of Perth will grow its own produce – part of a quiet national movement to change Australia’s response to the dearth of fresh, healthy and affordable food in remote communities.”You can watch the winning video application from Leonora here. We look forward to keeping you up to date with the progress of this exciting project, and the outcomes from all the wonderful communities receiving Food Ladder systems in our rollout across Australia.

Enjoy reading this update on what we have been up to and as always a huge thank you to our supporters, Chris Cuffe, Duncan Saville, Jane and Andrew Clifford, Paris Neilson and our corporate partners Norton Rose Fulbright, Melrose Health and Resimac. We could not achieve this level of impact without you.

Warm regards,

Kelly, Alex, Tate, Scott, Nigel, India and Lucy.
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Kintore Street School System, in Katherine, Northern Territory, Completed and Operational!

Implemented at the end of 2020 Kintore Street School was the first to receive a 20m2 Food Ladder System specifically designed to drive student learning outcomes. Kintore Street School caters for Katherine’s special needs students up to age 22 years. The greenhouse at the Senior Campus had an immediate impact with students taking part in the construction of the greenhouse and the internal hydroponic growing system. Within 6 weeks of the system being commissioned, the students were harvesting basil that they then made into a Basil and Macadamia Pesto as part of a classroom social enterprise. The following video includes an overview of the project and testimonials from students and teachers.
Watch their video here!
Alekarenge School Completed and Operational!

The Alekarenge School greenhouse was implemented in the first quarter of 2021 in a small Indigenous community 378km north of Alice Springs. 

Alekarenge School caters for students from Kindergarten to year 12, with the newly introduced senior program based on food production and farming. This project saw students take an active role in the construction of the greenhouse and hydroponic growing system. The Food Ladder School Greenhouse System creates early employment pathways for students as well as educating students about food production, healthy eating, and social enterprise. They are currently holding a school seed planting competition to see which student can grow the best lettuce. Watch this space!

Senior teacher Rhi Obst said “we are trying to work on building pathways so that students can be with us right from birth all the way through to employment. Our Food Ladder system is really important in setting the students up with these skills so that they can progress to employment within the community.” 

Watch their video here!

Sorell School Completed and Operational! 

Sorell School is the oldest continuous school in Australia, located in the South East region of Tasmania. Partnering with Hands on Learning (HOL), the project began in June 2021 with many  volunteers and exceptional  engagement from students. A month later the project was completed with seedlings germinated! 

The students will use vegetables and herbs to make nutritious and healthy lunches for them and their peers. The School Association is also exploring the idea of growing seedlings and hosting a seedling sale day!
Principal Jenny Cowling said “we’re a paddock to plate school so Food Ladder aligns beautifully with our kitchen garden program…. we are the really lucky beneficiary of this fabulous greenhouse.”

 Watch their video here! 

Sheffield School Completed and Operational! 

With an existing greenhouse in place Food Ladder began discussing opportunities with Sheffield School, in Tasmania, in regards to the installation of an effective and useful hydroponic system to supercharge production.

Work began in early August 2021 and was finished within days thanks in part to the help from the year 4-6 students. Beyond the hands-on learning experience, the produce from this system will be utilized in healthy eating programs.  Lettuce and bok choy are growing very well, with herbs about to be prioritised by the students. Sheffield School is currently deciding whether to sell the harvested produce through their office or use the commercial kitchen to create nutritional meals. All students from K-12 have been engaged in the project and are now looking to expand their hydroponic system!Watch their video here! 

Leonora construction underway!

 Leonora is located 830km North-East of Perth, WA, classified as ‘very remote’ the school has an ICSEA (Index of Commmunity Socio-Educational Advantage)of 736*. Catering from kindergarten aged children, to year 12 the school has 108 students, 69% of which are Indigenous. 66% of the children speak Indigenous dialect at home.

Leonora District High School won the nation-wide Food Ladder School Competition and as such they will receive the full Food Ladder system with solar panels for free. It was a tough competition and all of us at Food Ladder extend our congratulations to all the schools that applied and to Leonora for their heart-felt application and commitment to transforming the food security challenge in their community. We look forward to sharing the progress of yet another fabulous Food Ladder project.

*ICSEA values are calculated on a scale which has a median of 1000 and a standard deviation of 100. ICSEA values typically range from approximately 500 (representing schools with extremely disadvantaged student backgrounds) to about 1300 (representing schools with extremely advantaged student backgrounds). (2021,

What’s coming up? 

Waterford West QLD – this project is planned for last quarter 2021 and is a project that has been developed together with, and funded by our corporate partner, Resimac. We sincerely thank all the incredible Resimac staff for their support and engagement, including Janelle, Tom and Danielle.

Wilmot Primary School TAS – this project is planned for the last quarter 2021. 

Wellington Public School NSW – this project is planned for early 2022. Just last week one of our generous supporters donated the funds required to implement this Food Ladder, and to that person we would like to extend our sincere gratitude. Watch the school’s video submission here

Moil Primary School NT– this project is planned for 2022.

Forrest Parade School NT – this project is planned for 2022. Watch the school’s video submission here

Clyde Fenton Primary School NT – this project is planned for 2022. Watch the school’s video submission here

Jilkminggan School NT – The very generous friends of Jane Clifford collectively donated funds in her name on her birthday last year to cover the cost of the full implementation of a Food Ladder system to the community of Jilkminggan. We would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge their generosity and say thank you! There have been some unforeseen delays as a result of COVID which has pushed the project out but we are confident it will begin in the next few months. A very high impact project, we look forward to seeing the Food Ladder system in Jilkminggan in full production soon.

Future NT Schools – if all of the above wasn’t enough, we have another 6 schools in the pipeline in the NT who are poised to receive a Food Ladder system once Jilkminggan School System has been completed.We are working closely with numerous other schools for future projects and look forward to sharing more updates in due course 

With thanks to Third Link 

The extraordinary pace with which we have been able to progress our rollout this year is thanks to Third Link.Philanthropist and well known investment industry veteran Chris Cuffe, combined investment and charity to establish the Third Link Growth Fund.In a pioneering initiative designed to benefit both investors and the non-profit sector, the Third Link Growth Fund provides investors with the opportunity to invest in a professionally managed fund where all management fees, net of expenses incurred, are donated to the non-profit sector – without charging additional fees or diluting investment returns.

Thanks to Chris and the team, we have been able to supercharge our work and exponentially grow our impact across the country, the outcomes of which will be evidenced for years to come. On behalf of the communities that have received a Food Ladder as a result of Third Link’s support, thank you.

Online Platform Update 

 Since joining the organisation in April 2020 as Head of Operations, the Online Platform has been one of Tate Brammer’s chief objectives. The goal has been to create a library of resources that makes teaching easy and saves time for educators across Australia.

In the few short months that the Online Platform has been operational we have had 85 schools join, and through these schools 26,000 students can now benefit from our resources. On the Platform we have a library of documents, including recipes, guides, templates checklists, fact sheets and videos. The Platform is an invaluable resource to guide individuals, communities, schools and partner organizations through the whole gardening process from planning to harvesting and meal creation. Tate has achieved a momentous result with the Platform which takes the Food Ladder offering to schools and communities to a whole different level.

We encourage you to jump on and use the resources we have created. To get started on your profile and view the educational materials, access your account or sign up here

Currently we have two active curriculum writers and one desktop publisher creating best in class content, aligned to the Australian STEM curriculum, for teachers to take straight from the platform into the classroom.

India Shead, Research Assistant, has been doing a fabulous job of conducting online web demonstrations of the platform (~15 mins) for teachers around the country, to show how it can assist them as an educational resource, for teaching modules and community gardens. Please email us if this opportunity interests you and India would be more than happy to introduce you to the Platform’s many features.
We are also hoping to gather feedback on our users’ experiences with the Platform to develop the best possible resources and functionality. If you could complete this short survey here which will take 5 to 10 minutes, the feedback will be invaluable for us, shaping the future directions of the platform as well as removing any barriers.

An Update on Katherine Food Ladder

 320 kilometers southeast of Darwin, is the regional town of Katherine. For a long time, the town has relied on produce being freighted from the southern states at a high fee and at a cost to quality, something which has only be exasperated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Katherine is also seen as a town centre for residents of remote Northern Territory communities stretching from the Gulf of Carpentaria to the Western Australia border, meaning the ramifications of expensive and poor-quality produce runs wide.It was for this reason that Food Ladder chose Katherine as its first site back in 2016, in association with Katherine Indigenous Women’s Association and Katherine Town Council.

Today with Food Ladder’s Horticulture and Training Manager Scott McDonald at the helm, Food Ladder Katherine is home to a thriving hydroponic greenhouse (33m x 10.5m), a seedling greenhouse and a bustling community garden on a 4000 sq/m site.

Scott has shown leadership in the community transforming our site into a healthy hub of community engagement with which local residents engage at on all levels from growing fresh produce through to undertaking training and education programs.


Engagement in education activities and programs is an important aspect of the Katherine Food Ladder. Since the project’s inception in 2016, Food Ladder has engaged with the six primary schools and three secondary schools in Katherine, as well as schools from surrounding communities.

Milestones include:

– Customised programs delivered to Katherine High School’s Pathways Program and Kintore Street School.
– Up to 20 middle school students from St Joseph’s Catholic College visit Food Ladder once a fortnight, for a sustainability education program.
– In partnership with the NT Farmers Association, Food Ladder has developed a customised introduction to hydroponics education program, which will be delivered to 300 upper primary school students in both Katherine and Tennant Creek over the next two years.
– Commencing in Semester 1, 2021, Food Ladder will be contracted by the NT Education Department to deliver the nationally accredited qualification, Certificate 1 in AgriFood Operations (AHC10216), for students from Katherine High School.
– Since establishment, over 500 students in the Katherine region have been engaged in activities at the Food Ladder project

There is also great interest in Food Ladder from tertiary education institutions, with the University of Sydney’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences visiting as part of their annual immersion program for students undertaking units in Indigenous Land Use and Management. Food Ladder is also engaged with the University of Western Sydney, where students are undertaking trial based research on Indigenous bush foods suitable for greenhouse hydroponic production.


Many members of the Katherine community are regular visitors to the Food Ladder site, whether it be to attend the produce markets, take part in nutrition and cooking workshops, attend industry forums, or just drop in to have a look and discuss the project. Since 2018, over 350 people have attended the Food Ladder site for community-based activities.


The produce grown at the Katherine Food Ladder is helping to meet both local and interstate demand for fresh produce and Indigenous bush foods. Local residents are able to purchase produce directly from the site via produce boxes, and there is also a foraging wall surrounding the Food Ladder project allowing passers-by to pick a piece of fruit and enjoy a nutritional snack.

Food Ladder supports local charity organisations with the donation of fresh produce that helps support the most vulnerable people within the community. Organisations such as Salvation Army, Australian Red Cross, Sisters of Mother Teresa, Save the Children, and the local Stolen Generation group have all been able to donate Food Ladder produce to those in need. Food Ladder was also able to support Australian Red Cross with produce at Katherine’s cyclone emergency evacuation centres, when surrounding communities were evacuated.

Produce is sold to local businesses and cafes in Katherine and neighbouring communities, including The Finch Cafe, Pop Rocket Cafe, Black Russian Cafe, Burunga Community Store, and Marksies Stockmans Camp Tucker Night.

Native food and medicine products are grown and distributed locally and interstate. Since the beginning of 2019, over 30kg of dried native foods have been sold to food suppliers and manufacturers. Medicine plants grown on site are accessed by local people and health groups including Wurli-Wurlinjang Aboriginal Health Service, Banatjarl Strongbala Wimun Grup and Sunrise Health Service.

The greenhouse is able to produce a consistent amount of fresh vegetables. An average weekly harvest includes: 1kg dried native herbs, 100 heads of bok choy, 2kg of mixed salad leaf, and at least 15kg of tomatoes. This is supplemented by a large range of other annual and perennial produce grown in the gardens surrounding the greenhouse.

Seedlings of food plants are also grown as part of the Food Ladder project, to be distributed to families and communities for planting in home gardens. This was particularly important during COVID-19 restrictions in the Northern Territory, when many people in outlying communities were unable to travel to access fresh produce.

Food Ladder has partnered with food relief charity Foodbank NT to act as the Katherine hub for the distribution of food relief to local charity and aid organisations. Monthly deliveries are expected to increase to fortnightly in the coming year, with the long term goal to have a Foodbank store located on site.

Food Ladder also partners with other not-for- profits in the development of community projects including the establishment of purpose- built garden plots on the Food Ladder site. These plots are a safe space for vulnerable people to meet and learn about the benefits of growing fresh produce, whilst also getting to take it home to eat. Food Ladder is also working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to develop bush food and medicine gardens to be used as a educational resource for Elders, as well as develop social enterprise around cultural tourism and bush medicine products.

Welcome Lucy Payne

Lucy is charismatic and diligent with a passion for food, nutrition, sustainability and culinary content creation. Lucy graduated from the Australian National University in 2014 with a double degree in Arts and Commerce and since then has been working in full-service stockbroking and wealth management. More recently, Lucy moved to being the head of direct clients at a trading platform in Australia.

Lucy joined Food Ladder in 2021 with a view to utalising her strong understanding of platforms and client management to engage with our invaluable donors and stakeholders. Additionally, to facilitate partnership development and aid in the success of the School Rollout Program which is a strong focus of the organisation going forward. Lucy believes Food Ladder is a positive catalyst for fostering school age children to have a greater understanding of the importance of fresh produce, good nutrition, healthy eating, engaging cooking principles and their long-term well-being.

No doubt all of you in the Food ladder network will be seeing the outcomes of Lucy’s work in from here on in. Welcome to the team Lucy.

Afghanistan Fundraiser

The crisis in Afghanistan has been unimaginable. All of us at Food Ladder have been horrified to watch the events unfold and stand in support of the Afghan people at this time.

For some years now we have been working informally with Afghan-based, Australia NGO, Mahboba’s Promise which provides respite for vulnerable women and children. Being on the ground at this time, Mahboba’s Promise has been delivering aid and supplies to those left behind since the Taliban have taken control of government.

We reached out to our supporters as events escalated and raised $1,017.00 which has been donated in full to Mahboba’s Promise. Thank you to everyone who contributed.

When the situation in Afghanistan has become less volatile, we will be working with Mahboba’s Promise to see greenhouses implemented at the safe-shelters for the women and children in their care. The organisation, and all those vulnerable people it supports, will have free and ongoing access to our resources and our support to establish social enterprises to feed them as they rebuild.
Updated website!
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