Clockwise from below: Neighbourly exchanges; A wide range of produce on offer; Food Is Free laneway, Ballarat; Fresh locally grown produce.
A fair food system begins with you. These three contributors walk their talk. They are actively raising public awareness of things you can do to make our food system fairer. Here are their top tips.
1. Learn to cook. It changes everything: you can make what you want, and avoid packaging and food miles.
2. Spend most of your money outside of the big supermarkets. This is a direct snub to the monopolisation of corporate control over the supply chain. For a guide for people starting out, see ‘7 steps to quit supermarkets’ at the Beyond The Trolley website (see www.beyondthetrolley.com).
3. Buy directly from a producer. Do you know the producers of what you buy, or does the person you are buying from know them? This is where farmers’ markets come in, however there are real farmers’ markets – full of producers – and then there are markets full of resellers who are just buying from wholesalers; you have to discern which is which. Have a look at Beyond The Trolley’s ‘A beginner’s guide to farmers’ markets’. You can also purchase online, from a farm website or from www.openfoodnetwork.org.au), or visit a farm. Direct relationships promote transparency. You could also start a buying group with friends or buy half a cow between several families (e.g. see Beyond The Trolley’s ‘Start your own buying club’, or the Flavour Crusader guides at www.flavourcrusader.com).
4. Grow your own – and share it. This is the fairest food of all, and while this takes a little effort, growing your own food is a powerful thing. Even an attempt may lead to you growing more, or reignite your desire to be connected to food. Grow food with your neighbours. A great example is the Food Is Free project (see www.facebook.com/foodisfree) and the spin-off project in Ballarat (www.facebook.com/foodisfreelanewayballarat).
5. Join a gardening group or volunteer on a community horticulture project. Volunteering provides a fantastic opportunity to learn about gardening and your local area, and builds a sense of community. For example, in Bermagui NSW a group is restoring neglected gardens and orchards (see Bermagui Urban Food Farmers on Facebook). Groups like Sustainable Agriculture and Gardening Eurobodalla, SAGE (www.sageproject.org.au) allow you to sign up for a free newsletter. Such simple acts may spark new thoughts about food, and might lead you to participate in a working bee or social event held at a garden. These sorts of organisations should be listed on local councils’ websites.
6. Host a dinner. A person’s consciousness of Fair Food is raised when food is restored as part of her or his culture. Having a dinner once a month, with friends, where everyone brings a dish made from local produce, allows people to brag about what they made and where they sourced it from (or what they grew themselves). This creates connections and good food, and generates traditions and memories (culture).
7. Read something about food that’s not in the newspaper – and talk about it. There are great online blogs about alternative food systems. Tell people about what you read. You can be the catalyst to shift the way someone thinks about food, whether it’s to do with their health, seasonality of produce or economic justice for those who are food insecure. Some sources of good information include the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (see www.australianfoodsovereigntyalliance.org) and SAGE’s guide at www.sagefarmersmarket.org.au/how-tosupport-your-local-food-system-in-5-easy-steps/
8. Invest in Fair Food – and divest from corporate food. Increasingly, Fair Food farmers and enterprises turn to online crowdfunding sites to start or grow their ventures. There are many platforms, such as Start Some Good, who have developed an ebook for food projects. If you’re on a tight budget, you can lend money to farmers through Kiva (see www.kiva.org); the funds are returned to you.
9. Become part of the food media mafia. If you have research, writing, photography, web development, social media, event, podcast or presenting skills, consider starting a food media project to explore food issues and suggest solutions. Cynthia, for example, is a humble, passionate, hardworking, knowledgeable, down-to-earth POWERHOUSE who is galvanising her community through ‘the food eXchange’ (see www.exchangefood.org) and more.
10. Lean on a pollie. Growing your own food is great, but to address systemic problems government policies need to change. Ask your politicians – local, state and federal – what they are doing to address the consolidation of power in the supply chain; how will they promote healthy food environments; and how are they supporting Fair Food farmers and enterprises? ‘Corporate Food’ has lobbyists – Fair Food needs people power! Become part of the fair food movement by joining the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance.
Jennifer Richards writes beyondthetrolley.com about sustainable food, ethical eating and supermarket-free shopping for people who care about where their food comes from. Sharon Lee writes flavourcrusader.com/blog, to connect farmers with food-lovers and create the future of food. Kate Raymond manages the SAGE Farmers Market at Moruya, NSW, a role that fuels her passion for the local food movement.