Published 12 April 2016
“In the lead-up to the Federal Election, Australians concerned about household food security across all sectors need to unite, sending a message to government and highlighting collaborations that improve access to affordable nutritious food for everyone, regardless of age, income, gender, where you come from or where you live” – Dr Alana Mann
Those attending the Sydney Environment Institute’s free screening of the ‘In Defense of Food’ documentary on Monday 18 April, will also have the opportunity to learn more about a cause that is countering food insecurity in Australia. The event, hosted by Dr Alana Mann of the Food, People and the Planet node, will see the ‘soft’ launch of the NSW branch of the Right to Food Coalition (RtF).
(The Right to Food Coalition will officially launch the week of April 17, to coincide with the Food Security Research Forum at Monash University and other food security-related events.)
The aim of the RtF Coalition is to ensure “everyone has the right to access fresh, nutritious, affordable and culturally appropriate food”. The group includes representatives from a range of organisations including the Sydney Food Fairness Alliance and the NSW Refugee Health Service to address the problems of food insecurity and emergency food relief as well as to provide a platform to discuss these issues. The RtF Coalition began in late 2013 at a small-scale and has been gathering pace ever since. A number of practitioners in the public health field, community workers and policy-makers recognised the strain being placed on the emergency food sector and joined forces to bring more attention to the food insecurity issue by also holding a conference, ‘Putting Food on the Table’ in October 2014.
“So it aims to achieve representation across all states and territories and develop a membership that reflects the diversity of urban and rural Australia. This includes those who produce our food and sell it, as well as eaters themselves,” said Dr Mann.
To date there are state chapters in NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australian with individual participation from Queensland and Western Australia. The Coalition is seeking to broaden its membership. The Terms of Reference for the Coalition can be accessed here.
Food security needs to be treated as a core funding priority according to Dr Mann. “A lot of food security work is done with project based funding that is unsustainable. Ad hoc and market based responses are insufficient to address the problem,” she said.
“Invest in research into how people acquire and access food, research that identifies areas of need and informs strategic approaches to service delivery. Provide a safety net for the most disadvantaged that prevents over-reliance on the food relief sector. Engage in cross-sectoral participation across housing, transport, agriculture, public health and planning at all levels of government.”
Australia’s domestic food security policies are weak according to Dr Mann and usually grounded in agricultural productivism and technical innovation and efficiency – producing more, better. “They should focus on household food security and its link to poverty. We need to get this message to government,” she said.
RtF members can assist in any of the four key action areas:
1. Support collective advocacy efforts to address the key determinants of nutritious food access
2. Collaborate to maximise collective impact
3. Identify areas for policy relevant-research to enable evidence informed decision making and policy development; scrutinise public policy and identify areas for action
4. Network to strengthen advocacy in their own spheres
‘In Defense of Food’, is a confronting documentary by Michael Pollan about the modern food industry. It shows us how, despite the daunting dietary landscape Americans confront in the modern supermarket, we can escape the Western diet and, by doing so, most of the chronic diseases that diet causes. We can relearn which foods are healthy, develop simple ways to moderate our appetites, and return eating to its proper context — out of the car and back to the table. Michael Pollan’s bracing and eloquent manifesto shows us how we can start making thoughtful food choices that will enrich our lives, enlarge our sense of what it means to be healthy, and bring pleasure back to eating.
Also check out Dr Alana Mann’s latest opinion piece on Croakey, ‘The right to food – and how 1.2 million Australians miss out’.
Article by Rebecca Simpson