Healthy, sustainable, and equitable food systems: Growing the role of local government?

Beginning in 2019, this ARC Discovery project aims to investigate the role of law, policy, and regulation in enabling local governments and communities to contribute to healthy, sustainable, and equitable food systems. Using a multi-disciplinary approach, it will analyse policies and initiatives developed by local governments and communities in New South Wales and Victoria ​that aim to contribute to a healthy, sustainable and equitable food system. The knowledge created by this project will inform recommendations for policy and legislative reforms that will empower local governments and communities to respond to food system challenges at the local level.

Aims
  • Ascertain the enablers and barriers to local governments contributing to healthy, sustainable, and equitable food systems, including law and regulation;
  • Ascertain the barriers and enablers to community-based initiatives that contribute to healthy, sustainable, and equitable food systems, including law and regulation; and
  • Identify pathways to strengthen the role of local governments and communities in creating healthy, sustainable, and equitable food systems, via an integrated set of recommendations for policy and legislative change at state and local level, as appropriate.
Methods

This project is based on a food systems approach, which reflects a growing awareness of the interconnections between food production and consumption, environmental sustainability, and health outcomes, and the need for governance approaches that addresses these interactions. By adopting a food systems lens, the project moves out of a “siloed” approach. This multi-methods project incorporates:

  • critical legal analysis of the legal and regulatory framework that establishes and empowers local governments;
  • in-depth case study analysis of local government food polices and community-based initiatives, and the barriers to and enablers of implementation, using qualitative research methods; and
  • the identification of options for policy and legislative reform to enable local-level governance of food systems

Part one of the project will involve creating a database of local government policies on food system governance in all local government areas in NSW and Victoria. Part two will involve working closely with approximately three to four local governments in each state to understand practical implementation of these policies, and the barriers and enablers to action by local councils “on the ground” to effect food system change. Part three of the project will identify community-led food system initiatives in selected local government areas in NSW and Victoria. Part four will involve a case study of approximately three to four of these initiatives, focusing on the barriers to and enablers of their success, including law, regulation and policy.

Advisory Committee
  • Berbel Franse, Health Promotion Officer (Food Security / Food Sustainability), Healthy Cities Illawarra 
  • Callum Champagne, Farm manager, Green Connect 
  • Deanne Condon-Paoloni, Member of Public Health Association of Australia and Food Fairness Illawarra. Honorary Fellow, School of Health and Society, University of Wollongong 
  • Greg Jacobs, Team Leader Health Department, City of Melbourne 
  • Heather Yeatman, Professor of Public Health, School of Health and Society, University of Wollongong 
  • Jen Alden, Councilor, City of Greater Bendigo. Chair, Bendigo Regional Food Alliance  
  • Linda Martin-Chew, Consultant/Director Plan-it Rural PL and Senior Strategic Policy Planner at City of Whittlesea 
  • Mahlah Grey, Co-owner, The Pines Kiama 
  • Michael Buxton, Emeritus Professor Environment and Planning,School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University
  • Phil Baker, Alfred Deakin Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Faculty of Health, Deakin University
Events

THIS EVENT HAS BEEN POSTPONED – Food for thought: Courageous leadership in food systems
1-day forum featuring Jake Claro, Director of Vermont Farm to Plate Plan
University of Wollongong Innovation Campus 

This one-day conference brings together policymakers from all tiers of government, health professionals, food producers, business owners, researchers and community members to advance a comprehensive regional approach to addressing food systems and food security. The conference will involve a plenary session by internationally prominent Jake Claro, presentations on food systems research and initiatives, and themed workshops.

Flyer  | Programme

Achievements 2019

This year, we set up the project, established the steering committee, held two advisory meetings, and hired two research assistants. Next, we focused on conducting the policy analysis. As part of this process, we identified the principles of a healthy, sustainable and equitable food system based on international reports; finalised our framework of recommendations to code policy documents; tested our methods by double-checking results for the City of Melbourne with council officers; and started to analyse council policies all across Victoria and NSW. Finally, in collaboration with the Melbourne Food Alliance, we developed an online survey on food system policies and projects, which will be sent out to councils early next year.

Conferences

Carrad, A., Aguirre-Bielschowsky, I., Charlton, K., Rose, N., Magnusson, R. & Reeve, B. 2020. ‘Local government policies to enable healthy, sustainable and equitable food systems’, Preventive Health Conference: Can do prevention, effective action in a volatile world. Public Health Association. Perth, 13-15 May.

Aguirre-Bielschowsky, I., Carrad, A., Reeve, B., Charlton, K. & Rose, N. 2019. ‘The role of Australian local government in promoting a healthy, sustainable and equitable food system’, ECRP Event: The Future of Food. Future Earth Australia and the University of South Australia. Adelaide, 9-11 December.