Story by Russ Grayson, 2 October 2014
As I sit here in Randwick writing this, I look through the now-more-than 60 event listings for Fair Food Week 2014 on the Fair Food Week website. Then it dawns on me — what I am seeing is the visible manifestation of what surely must be a social movement around fair food throughout Australia.
Seen this way, is this what US economist and author, Paul Hawken, meant when he described community-based enterprises and initiatives like Fair Food Week as society’s “immune response” to “political disease” and “economic malaise”? Is it some kind of social push-back against an impersonal food system in which good nutrition is often put low down the corporate and governmental priotity list? Are all those community and social enterprise initiatives, those small business enterprises built around good food, fairly accessed, push-back against the impersonal experience of the industrial shopping experience you get in the big warehouses of our supermarkets?
[pull_quote align=”right”]This brings us to Fair Food Week 2014 — the second coming of what is a new event across our continent, our nation.[/pull_quote]
Earlier this morning I was speaking with Liz Millen from the Sydney Food Fairness Alliance. Liz is a health educator who well knows the effect of poor nutrition and she has been advocating for a fairer food system for some years. That discussion made clear to me that for a surprising number of Australians have difficulty providing for their families when it comes to food. I think that, were a conscious effort to be made to develop this incipient social movement around food further, then those concerns of Liz and her colleagues must form a central part of it.
I remember now that the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance, the national organisation behind Fair Food Week, included fair access to food in its Peoples’ Food Plan. The Plan was developed as a constructive response to the previous federal governments National Food Plan which the present mob dumped. That doesn’t invalidate the Plan, however, and I think its best use now is as a manifesto for fair food in Australia — a manifesto for the sort of fair food spocial movement I mention above.
This brings us to Fair Food Week 2014 — the second coming of what is a new event across our continent, our nation. For me, it’s a statement that our food future isn’t just for corporations and governments to make decisions on, though they clearly have a role. Our food future belongs to us — the citizens of this country.
Let’s take it back.
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Liz Millen, Sydney Food Fairness Alliance
Liz Millen is an energetic and organised woman, a health educator with years of experience to back up what she says about access to food. And what she says comes across succinctly and firmly.
Liz was a founding member of the Sydney Food Fairness Alliance, the city’s first and most prominent fair food advocate that made its start in 2006. In 2009 the Alliance held the NSW Food Summit with visiting food advocate, Jeanette Longfield MBE, then coordinator of the UK’s national food education and advocacy organisation, Sustain. The event culminated with the handing over of the Declaration on Food to the NSW Parliament.
Liz’s key message is that Australians — a surprising number of them — have difficulty putting food for their families on the table. That’s tied up with inadequate incomes, unreliable or a lack of employment opportunities, personal and community health, residential address, the actions or otherwise of government and much more you will discover at the conference the Alliance has organised this October Faor Food Week — the appropriately named Putting Food On The Table.
Liz takes up the story…
“We created Putting Food On The Table — our event during Fair Food Week — because over five percent of Australians… five percent… think about that figure… that’s over one million people… experience difficulty feeding their families. And in some places it’s even more.
“This is Australia’s hidden hunger and it has implications. As Abraham Maslow pointed out decades ago, food — along with shelter, clean water, adequate clothing, personal health and personal security — are the basics of life. Without them, it is exceedingly difficult if not impossible to engage in any kind of personal development or improve the lot of your family. This is why the food security of families is so important… and it’s not just about individuals… it’s about Australia’s future.
Our event — timely and important
[quote author=”” image=”http://afsa.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/right-to-food.png” w=”265″ h=”150”]”Putting Food On The Table is a production of the new Right To Food Coalition, a cooperation of organisations like Red Cross, South Western Sydney Local Health District, Liverpool City Council, Macarthur Future Food Forum, Harvest Hub, Second Bite, Foodbank and others — and Sydney Food Fairness Alliance, of course.
“The Coalition‚ those organisations and the people in them work with those in disadvantaged areas on the serious issue of securing a good food supply… securing year-round access to a supply of good food sufficient to support an active life, that is.
“Fair access to good food is an overlooked issue in this country and the Right To Food Coalition is an advocate that is putting the issue on the political agenda.
“And this is what Putting Food On The Table will do as it brings people together for mutual learning and to map out future joint action. When all Australians have a reliable food supply whatever their income and wherever they live, then we will have a fair food system.
“That, then, is what we’re working towards and that is what Putting Food On The Table is about.
“It’s our good fortune that the event falls at the same time as Anti-Poverty Week, World Food Day and Fair Food Week. Join us there.”
[button_link url=”http://righttofood.org.au” target=“blank” style=”” title=”” class=”” id=”” onclick=“”]Visit their website — Putting Food On the Table [/button_link]
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Justin Walsh, Trentham Food Hub
[quote author=”” image=”http://afsa.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/trentham.png” w=”265″ h=”157”]”The Trentham Food Hub is an emerging community enterprise set up to support a thriving local food economy by working with producers to address the gaps in their resources.
“It’s the vehicle we’ve created to drive this change in our community”, says Justin Walsh, Coordinator of the Hub.
“We know that global supply chains aren’t based on the interests of small Victorian communities. We know that our farmers can get a better return for their hard yakka and we know that good, clean, fair food can also be affordable.
“We think a healthy food system should underpin rural communities and we think local ownership of the food system is imperative to the long term prosperity of these communities.” [/quote]
A local initiative
“I started the Growers, Cookers & Eaters dinner with the local sustainability group because there was limited opportunity for consumers to meet producers in a social setting that isn’t a buyer-seller interaction.
“The dinner is a platform to bring together people from different parts of the supply chain and begin new conversations with good food at the centre. We held our first Growers, Cookers & Eaters dinner in 2012 and decided to hold it again as part of the inaugural Fair Food Week to put these local conversations into a national context.
“We’ve also found that hosting the dinner is a good way to promote our projects with local farmers and all kinds of skilled people have come out of the woodwork to get involved.
“Events like this are important so more people can build an understanding of what’s grown in their region and how food spending choices can positively impact their community and quality of life. Putting names and faces to the grocery list makes it easier for food buyers to make informed choices about what goes in their basket.
The importance of Hubs
“Food hubs are organisations that connect growers with cookers and eaters to promote buying and selling locally. They are community infrastructure supporting regional and creative food economies. Their primary focus is food access and logistics.
“Hubs differ from other types of retailer because they typically integrate the following key activities at the core of the business: working with producers to access new markets; working with customers to access fresh produce; focusing on connecting local producers and customers; streamlining distribution from multiple producers; promoting sustainable farming practices; supporting equitable access to healthy food and working closely with the local community.
Fair Food set to explode in Melbourne
“Interest in the concept of Fair Food has exploded in Melbourne over the past two years and this has permeated through to regional Victoria.
“I think the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance’s People’s Food Plan galvanised the community around this idea and successive large scale forums have really got people fired up. It’s very energising to be part of such an engaged community of high achievers, both in Melbourne and in regional Victoria.
“VIVA LA FAIR FOOD!”.
[button_link url=”http://fairfoodweek.org.au/event/trentham-growers-cookers-eaters-2014/” target=”blank” style=”” title=”” class=”” id=”” onclick=“”]Visit Trentham Growers, Cookers & Eaters 2014 [/button_link]
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Regional Development Australia (RDA), Southern Inland
[quote author=”” image=”http://afsa.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/rda2.png” w=”265″ h=”158″]No slouchers, these regional development folk. They hosted their inaugural Australian Capital Region Food Hub Event in June this year.
A success, the event attracted more than 100.
“Not long afterwards”, writes Richard, Nick Rose visited Canberra and we discussed the formation of a Canberra Region Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA) chapter.
“The Southern NSW Harvest Association is the region’s umbrella organisation and, following Nick’s visit, Southern Harvest joined AFSA as a first step towards this goal. We then scheduled our next Food Hub event to coincide with Fair Food Week.
The regional role of food
“RDA Southern Inland produced a Regional Plan in which we identified six regional priorities. Each of these contributes significantly to regional development.
“Regional food is particularly important as it contributes to economic and community development on so many levels — from fundamentals like food security, biodiversity, health and wellbeing to the sustainability of regional populations and the development of vibrant visitor economies.
“Research indicates that local business makes a significantly greater contribution to an economy than franchised, corporatised or multinational operations.
Potential to expand
“We received significant feedback from our initial Food Hub event and identified Southern Harvest as the vehicle to address a number of issues raised. These including the sharing of information, the creation of a regional brand, the need for education and business development support for operators.
“We have re-engineered Southern Harvest to deliver these benefits to members and are in the process of re-launching the association.
“One key initiative currently under development is the creation of a Southern Harvest Regional Producer’s Market at Bungendore. We are also keen to develop or adopt an online trading portal for both B2B and B2C transactions.
The food hub — a better type of retail
“We are keen to replace the current producer > central market > wholesaler > retailer > buyer supply chain model with more direct, local distribution channels.
“We have identified the Australian Capital Region as our local bioregion and it has the capacity to fill a shopping basket with a broad range of healthy, fresh and local produce. We are working to identify producers and supplies within the region and share this info with consumers — in doing so becoming a ‘hub’ of information.
“This first Food Hub event was initiated by an informal grouping of associations known as the Local Food Initiative. (Details of participating groups can be found on the Australian Capital Region Food Hub Event web page) and led by the amazing Penny Kothe (Caroola Farm, Permaculture eXchange).
“The event was sponsored by RDA Southern Inland that also support Southern Harvest.”
Asked for feedback on what the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance is doing, Richard responded:
“Love your work.
“Having worked in the regional food sphere for many years, we can appreciate the quality and integrity of your People’s Food Plan and have adopted it as a ‘foundation document’
“We are keen to see the development of a Canberra Region AFSA Chapter and wish fellow members all the best with their Fair Food Week activities.”
[button_link url=”http://fairfoodweek.org.au/event/australian-capital-region-food-hub-event-2/” target=”blank” style=”” title=”” class=”” id=”” onclick=””]Visit Australian Capital Regional Food Hub Event #2 [/button_link]
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Skilling Up For Our Food Future, Randwick, NSW
In Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, Randwick City Council have run a popular Organic Gardening course for many years and have also offered a Permaculture Orchard course the past two years. People also turn up at the Permabee garden volunteer days to help maintain the Permaculture Interpretive Garden at Randwick Community Centre. Led by Eastern Suburbs gardening educator, Emma Daniell, it’s become something of a family event.
A successful first-ever Fair Food Week
The clear community interest in food is also why they held their first Fair Food Week event last year. That was so popular that they decided to offer it again this October.
They plan to follow last years’ successful formula of workshops and children’s activities in the afternoon, followed by a participatory cook-up and shared meal, followed by — this time — a couple short videos on food and a discussion about them. Fortunately, one of the part-time educators, Leesa Burton, is a chef as well as a primary educator, so the food people will jointly prepare comes out tasty. The kids really get into food preparation.
Doing all of this aligns with council’s city plan and with their community development ethos — it’s about building what they call the ‘capacity’ of the community so Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs can become a more resilient place to live, able to bounce back after some impact on it.
A local fair food movement
The interest in food and food issues at the Randwick Sustainability Hub reflects a wider interest in food that you find throughout the Eastern Suburbs. That’s a deeper interest in food, in where it comes from, how we get it and how good it is.
Then there’s the question of fair access to good food for people who are less affluent, who suffer illness, who are unemployed, on pensions and who have limited income to buy what they eat. The Eastern suburbs is a socially diverse region spanning great affluence to deep poverty, and while the former are not challenged in putting food on the table, the latter can be.
This interest in food you see in the small business, social enterprise and community-based food access services that are spread mainly through the northern part of Randwick and into Waverley and Woollahra, the three Eastern Suburbs council areas. There’s Rhubarb Food Cooperative and Thoughtful Foods Cooperative, that one on the UNSW Randwick campus — they’re both in Randwick — Bondi Food Collective, Randwick Organic Buyers Group, a couple venues for food markets and the community supported agriculture enterprise, Ooooby, operating in the area as well as further afield.
The role of Fair Food Week in Randwick is to support these food initiatives and link what they are doing to the big picture of food security, food access and food sovereignty — which is about citizen control over their food supply — around Australia. It’s a way of linking with World Food Day that commemorates the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 1945 and the work the Organisation does in food security today.
Mostly, Fair Food Week in Randwick is to highlight what locals can do to build a resilient and fair food system in Australia.
2:30-5:00pm — kids activities and community displays and stalls
- Fair food fun for kids with Leesa Burton
- Clay modelling the garden with community artist Karen Weiss
- Community stalls — Permaculture East, Transition Randwick, Sustainimum
3:00-3:45pm – 3 workshops
- Beyond the Trolley — Jennifer Richards
- Urban Bees — Doug Purdie
- Edible foraging tour — Emma Daniell
4:00-4:45pm – 3 workshops
- Mapping our local food — a facilitated discussion with Russ Grayson
- Fermenting & preserving — Transition Randwick’s Sustainimum
- High yielding vegies for small spaces — Emma Daniell
[button_link url=”http://fairfoodweek.org.au/event/skilling-up-for-our-food-future/” target=”blank” style=”” title=”” class=”” id=”” onclick=””]Visit Skilling up for our Food Future [/button_link]