Rebecca recently graduated in a bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics at The University of Wollongong. Rebecca was a part of a research team for her Honours Thesis which focused on a project called “Strengthening Local Food System Governance”.
Tell us a bit about yourself – what is your background and how are you involved in the local food system?
Last year I graduated with a Nutrition and Dietetics degree at The University of Wollongong. As part of my Honours Thesis I was a part of the research team working on the project called “Strengthening Local Food System Governance”. More recently, I have moved to Melbourne and so I am spending my days building up my new vegetable garden and exploring my new local food system (finding new farmers markets, box schemes and community grocers) so that I can fuel my passion for cooking.
Tell us about your research project – what is it about and what have you achieved so far?
The current food system is plagued with various problems that are negatively affecting human health and the planet on which we depend. Part of the solution to the issues requires a change to how the system is governed, starting with transforming who has the power to make this change. Globally, food system governance is expanding to incorporate actors outside government, including civil society, who participates through community-based initiatives or organisations. Community-based initiatives are involved in food system governance that occurs below the domains of government but beyond the attainable action of a single individual.
For my Honours research, I was exploring the role of community-based initiatives and their involvement in the control of the food system to promote sustainability, equity, and health. To explore this I undertook a national survey of Australian Community-based initiatives and non-government organisations and a qualitative case study on Food Fairness Illawarra as a local community-based initiatives.
These two studies are a part of a series of studies that my research team are performing to identify ways to strengthen the local food system.
The current food system is plauged with various problems that are negativly affecting human health and the planet on which we depend.
What are the key takeaways from your research?
The main takeaways from my research included:
- A common activity performed by community-based initiatives in their food system governance work included educating the community about sustainability, equity, and health. This involved activating the community to participate in their local food system and educating them on the importance of this. Community-based initiatives used education to contribute to the activation of communities and civil society.
- Another was their role in advocating to local government. In addition to their role in encouraging the community to actively advocate and assist activated community members to overcome the barriers of bureaucratic structure and a lack of opportunities. The most common policy advocacy priorities that were identified included healthy eating, food production and food security.
- Both education and advocacy resulted in mutual knowledge exchange. Brought about by a network of partnerships and collaborations it linked local knowledge to relevant stakeholders. Community-based initiatives used local evidence-based data and evaluation to perform this activity.
- That it was through these activities, that community-based initiatives worked to promote a food system that encompasses health, sustainability, and equity.
Where can people find out more?
You can head to my research teams project website to get more information on each of these and other sub-projects. In the future, more information on the projects will be published as well as a plain-language summary for the community to read.
You can also read FFI’s Fair Food Champion article on Amy Carrad, who is a member of my research team.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
It is never too late to learn more about your local food system and to get involved. Just like I am doing now, I challenge you to start researching what community-based initiatives are working within your local area. You can do this by
- Attending the FFI community catch up meetings, and actively getting behind their activities
- Visit Get involved
- Joining and engaging in another of the fair food initiatives in the local area (e.g., food co-ops, Hidden Harvest, community gardens, and farmers markets)
- Talking and engaging with local elected members (a.k.a. Councillors and the Lord Mayor) to tell them about the fair food future you want for the Illawarra.
Part of the solution to the issues requires a change to how the system is governed.