Welcoming Catriona Macmillan, FoodLab Sydney Project Officer

Get to know Catriona Macmillan, who joins SEI as part of the FoodLab Sydney project.

Image by Stella de Smit, via Unsplash

We are excited to welcome Catriona Macmillan to the Institute, who joins us as the project officer for FoodLab Sydney. Founded in collaboration with the City of Sydney, TAFE NSW, FoodLab Detroit and UNSW, the Sydney Food Incubator is a response to high levels of food insecurity in the city, and aims to empower individuals and communities by assisting them become part of the food system. Below, we talk to Catriona about her interests and passion for healthy food and soil.

What made you interested in working on the Food Incubator Project? 

A desire for good food advocacy for everyone has driven me for around thirty years. The FoodLab Sydney model is based on the highly successful FoodLab Detroit, lead by the incredible Devita Davison. Devita has long been an advocate for food security and has worked with many start ups to bring new and innovative access schemes into everyday city life. Sydney seems so ripe for this project, which is a unique collaboration between City of Sydney, the University of Sydney, TAFE NSW, The University of New South Wales and FoodLab Detroit. Sydney is bursting with people with bright ideas, and it is our hope to continue building networks and supporting a range of people who might not normally have the opportunity to gain some practical qualifications, mentors and experience. I’m so excited just imagining the diversity of new food choices that could come into fruition. 

What are the key environmental issues you are most passionate about?

Primarily food security and soil quality, although agriculture itself is truly an environmental issue in many senses. Food production and distribution are key contributors to climate change and environmental degradation, from carbon emissions produced from packaging, transporting and storing produce around the world, through to land-clearing, soil degradation, phosphate dependence, huge amounts of waste generated by factory farming, and of course, the increasing use of pesticides, herbicides fungicides contaminating soil, air and waterways.

Luckily there are many ways in which we can start to mitigate some of these negatives. We need good healthy soil to help sequester carbon, so we should be composting rather than relying on landfill and planting more trees to help stabilise soil and prevent run-off. Buying local produce and simply changing some of our expectations about how we eat can make a major difference and eventually, start to heal our planet.

Apart from food, what are your passions & interests?

Food is ever present in my life, I go to the farmers markets, independent stores, my friends and community gardens, gathering stories from many a food artisan and grower as I go. I cook, I’m not a great cook but I use fresh ingredients to welcome guests around a big table laden with food that reflects the abundance of care of the local farmers, and the richness of the soil.

I love to walk, countryside or in the city, and observe the world I am walking through, noticing the history, the architecture, the land, the ecology and imagining and discovering how it evolved into what we see today.