As photos of empty milk sections at Coles and Woolworths began appearing online last week, many consumers bemoaned they had no way of supporting farmers if the supermarket giants were not stocking branded dairy products.
But according to the ABC, the photos spurred Geelong resident Patrick O’Callaghan to attempt to make it easier to find locally produced milk, with O’Callaghan launching The Milk List as part of his app Local Food Loop, which tries to connect users with places to buy locally produced food.
The Milk List went up 10 days ago, and O’Callaghan told SmartCompany the list is a response to the plight of local producers amid the current diary price crisis.
“I heard a lot of people saying we need to do something for the farmers, but no-one was actually doing anything, so I put it together as an initial alternative” he says.
The Milk List currently features more than 350 places where consumers can buy branded diary products, including many small businesses.
One of those places is Alison’s Bread, a bakery in Prahran. It’s run by Alison Baker, who told SmartCompany she is happy to have her business on The Milk List.
“I didn’t realise I’d been added but it’s a good thing to be supporting local farmers,” she says.
Baker has noticed a surge in people coming in to buy milk over the past week, saying as many as 50% more people have been looking to grab more expensive milk.
She thinks the price war over milk is “appalling”.
“Retroactive price fixing is disgusting on hard working people like dairy farmers is just appalling,” she says.
Baker has been buying milk at higher prices and is selling milk at $4 for a 2L carton.
“I’ve been supporting local farmers ever since the price dropped,” she says.
“Everyone I speak to is angry about it, there’s huge support for farmers in the community.”
Food app keeps locals in the loop
The Local Food Loop started in Geelong about 18 months ago but has gained popularity since October last year when the Surf Coast Shire partnered with Local Food Loop for their Eat Local Month.
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The app allows users – be it consumers or business owners – to post information about where the food they have brought comes from. Other users then give the product a thumbs up or a thumbs down.
O’Callaghan runs the Local Food Loop by himself when he is not busy with his day job as a consultant. “It was basically me developing the app when I had the time,” he says.
He hopes it has an impact.
“The whole reason I do it is to try and encourage people to eat local and shop local and give people access to quality food,” he says.
“The interesting thing to me is that there are similar issues with fruits and eggs. Milk is just a highlight at the moment. So I can see there being a fruit list or an egg list in the future.”
“I want the Local Food Loop to be a natural resource for people that people can use every day.
“If you’re at a place on the list it will say what product it is and where the product comes from, but it also lets people know where to find more local food and get in contact with local farmers.”
Pushing abroad, O’Callaghan has a friend in Canada who is looking to set up a Canadian Local Food Loop in Vancouver, and he also knows someone on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast who is also looking into setting one up.
“And it’s easy to do, it’s so transportable. You take the format and you and users put more information into it,” he says.