In January, Bendigo Foodshare appointed a new manager, Bridget Bentley, to oversee the organisation.

Many of you will be familiar with Bridget from her previous role as our Grow Cook Share Project Coordinator and Food Ambassador. However, you may not know much about Bridget’s previous work and life outside Bendigo Foodshare.

Here are seven interesting facts about our new manager!

1. What inspired you to work at Bendigo Foodshare?

It is important to me that through all facets of my life, I can positively contribute to creating a healthier community and environment. Bendigo Foodshare provides me with the perfect opportunity to do this professionally; however, it actually gives me so much more.

We all know that food poverty is a big issue in this country and is a consequence of a huge range of reasons. But do we really understand who it can affect? At Bendigo Foodshare, we get asked all the time, “Who’s at greatest risk of suffering from food poverty? Who does it affect?” And the simple answer is that it could affect anyone of us. Many of us have experienced financial hardship through some time in our lives. I have, and while I was fortunate enough not to have to stress about where my kids’ next meal might come from, I did feel the stress of an uncertain future.

One in five Australian kids go to school hungry! Living in this lucky and wealthy country of ours, this is unacceptable! Access to healthy food is a basic human right, and as a society, we should be doing more to support this.

I work for Bendigo Foodshare to do my bit to support the community, and to know that if I fell on hard times, that some of the worries about putting enough food on the table to feed my family would be reduced.

2. How have you settled in as the new manager?

Another reason I work for Bendigo Foodshare is to work with an amazing team of passionate, dedicated and generous people, all working together for the same cause – to help collect and distribute food that would have otherwise gone to landfill to those in need. Working in such a dynamic and positive environment has made it easy to settle in and get on with the job of helping this group of dedicated volunteers achieve Bendigo Foodshare’s goals!

We have so much going on – our Grow Cook Share project, collecting and distributing more food from local food donors seven days a week, engaging with the Bendigo community to encourage support through fundraising and volunteering, and getting ready for our upcoming Million Meals in May campaign. It’s a case of all hands on deck!

3. What is your professional background?

I have a Bachelor of Agricultural Science and worked in the agricultural industry, natural resource management, sustainability and emergency management sectors, in the areas of social and market research, behaviour change, stakeholder engagement, marketing and business strategy, and project management. I have consulted to Government agencies at the Federal, State and Local levels, industry groups, Catchment Management Authorities, leading agribusinesses, water authorities and NGOs, to name a few.

The thing I loved the most about this time in my life was travelling around rural and regional Australia, chatting to farmers and communities around the kitchen table, in the paddock, at the pub and at community events, about their challenges, opportunities and experiences. I felt privileged that they trusted me with their stories and to deliver their messages to those influencing policies and programs on their farms and within their communities.

4. What are your three biggest life accomplishments?

My biggest achievement by far has been returning to work after over eight years of family leave. The barriers women face getting back into the workforce after having children are enormous. This was no different for me this time last year; I was struggling to imagine how I would return to work. To have been given the opportunity of working on the amazing Grow Cook Share project and now to take on the new role of Manager at Bendigo Foodshare is something of which I feel really proud. My biggest learnings from this experience are to seize the opportunity (no matter its size) and to give it all you’ve got; and that sometimes the things we’re most scared of are the very things most worth pursuing.

My biggest personal achievement was moving from the safety of the city, where everything was familiar, and I was surrounded by my family and friends, to a rambling hobby farm in the middle of a Wimmera broad acre paddock, with three kids under three. We not only survived, we thrived, immersing ourselves in the beauty, colour and richness that country life and rural communities have to offer.

The achievement I will never forget was sailing on a 60ft yacht from Argentina to Antarctica to experience its wildness and beauty, with Steve Irwin on board!

6. One word that describes you the best.