• The groups prove that food can create community-wide change. (Gallo Images ROOTS Collection/Getty Images)Source: Gallo Images ROOTS Collection/Getty Images
Australians of all ages and cultural backgrounds are getting together to change the world - and they're doing it using food.
Yasmin Noone

4 Sep 2019 - 2:17 PM  UPDATED 4 Sep 2019 - 2:17 PM

The power of food can’t be underestimated. While food brings people together, having a passion for what you’re eating and where your food comes from can create community-wide change.

Here are just a few of the movements, happening across Australia, that are changing the way that people of all ages think about food.

Young people are changing the world with food

Youth Food Movement Australia (YFMA) is a volunteer-run, non-profit organisation that engages people aged 18-35 years and educates them about food sustainability issues.

“Our community are inspired, confident citizens, empowered to tackle the big issues, in their own practical ways,” says Jessica Gardner, member of the YFMA’s national leadership team.

“We also have an organisational strategy to build a community that is rich and inclusive, made of people from socially, geographically and culturally diverse backgrounds.”

“Our community are inspired, confident citizens, empowered to tackle the big issues, in their own practical ways.” 

The movement, which is mostly online, has almost 4000 subscribers on its news database and more than 16,000 young people following it on Facebook. It runs blogs, events and campaigns that focus on the reduction of food waste, creating culturally inclusive food communities, how to use ‘ugly food’ and community eating.

“Food also brings people to the table, both literally and metaphorically, so it is an excellent medium through which to educate and empower youth,” Gardner tells SBS.

“I think food is important to young people not just as a necessity but as a source of power and agency. Young people have so little power these days, but we can fight back against the powers that be with the weapon of personal choice – and food is a massive choice we make every day.”

Growing and giving: Community food sharing

Grow Free is a grassroots movement that that aims to share free, healthy food with all members of the community.

The organisation’s philosophy is all about ‘growing and giving’. The movement centres around the existence of physical carts, placed in various locations that are shared with members of the public online. These carts display free produce that people can pick up, and vegetable, herb and flower seedlings for people to take and plant in their garden. You can also use the cart to drop off produce and seedlings to give away to others.

“Grow Free starts with food, but ends up with community.”

“Sharing our food abundance nurtures the health and happiness of local communities and the environments in which we live,” the organisation says online. “Grow Free starts with food, but ends up with community.”

Based in Australia, Grow Free is now operating in New Zealand and the USA.

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Returning to a slower food culture

The global Slow Food movement, which was founded in Italy in the 1980s, is now a 30-year-strong organisation that’s working hard to protect local food cultures and traditions across 160 countries, including Australia.

The movement focuses on a concept of food that is ‘good, clean and fair’, and aims to bring international and Indigenous gastronomic traditions to the community.

Slow Food International Councillor for Australia and Oceania, Amorelle Dempster, tells SBS that locally, the movement also focuses on protecting biodiversity, and the livelihoods of artisan food producers and small-scale farmers.

“If we don’t have small producers producing, for example, six varieties of cabbages that are grown in my own community, we would have only one variety: a monoculture. That’s an issue because variety in food, colours and flavours is what gives us nutrition.”

Slow Food in Australia provides farmers with opportunities to sell their produce to communities by running markets and assisting with marketing. 

“We have to reimagine the old as the new,” Dempster says, referring to food traditions and nutritious ways of eating. “We would also really like Australians to eat a biodiverse variety of vegetables that are seasonally derived.”

“We have to reimagine the old as the new.” 

Granting everyone a right to food

Although every human being needs to eat quality food every day to remain healthy, not every member of society has the chance. As Liz Millen, member of the NSW Chapter of Right to Food Coalition, tells SBS, there are many vulnerable people living in Australia who don’t have the money to buy healthy food regularly and therefore go without.

This is where the Right to Food Coalition comes in. The nationwide food movement – made up of organisations, practitioners, researchers and community workers – aims to advocate for vulnerable people who don’t have access to healthy food.

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“There is a big focus on healthy eating in general,” says Millen. “But upwards of a million people are food insecure in Australia.

“There are particular sub-groups that are more vulnerable than others like refugees, Indigenous people and single parents. These people on low incomes may struggle to have regular and healthy food because of the competing cost of rent, utilities, transport and clothing.”

“Our goal is to get to a point where we haven’t constantly got a million or more people in Australia who have to answer the question: ‘have you run out of food in the last year and been unable to buy more?’" 

The nationwide volunteer group plays its part by holding events and advocating for vulnerable people so that they have a voice in public and government forums on food and health. “We are different because we say that we think the right to a healthy diet is a human right.

“Our goal is to get to a point where we haven’t constantly got a million or more people in Australia who have to answer the question: ‘have you run out of food in the last year and been unable to buy more?’ That’s just not okay when you’re living in an advanced and comparatively rich country like ours.”

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