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Cultivating a sustainable food future for the Northern Rivers

Lizzie Mettam, Partnerships, Sustain

In an event that brought the 4th national Urban Agriculture Month to a close, community leaders and stakeholders gathered in Ballina for an important roundtable discussion on the future of sustainable food systems in the Northern Rivers. This timely event, co-hosted by Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSWLHD), Sustain: The Australian Food Network, and the University of Technology Sydney's (UTS) Institute for Sustainable Futures, explored the challenges and opportunities in creating a more resilient and equitable food system for our region.

The Roundtable marks the beginning of a series of capacity building, policy informing workshops/roundtables/etc that provide a solid and pragmatic path to building community and environmental resilience in the region through transforming the food system. The events drive actions and outcomes, and we are all for that at Sustain.

The Intersection of Food Security and Housing

The roundtable highlighted the critical intersection of food security and housing, particularly in the context of rising living costs and urban development. As land and housing become increasingly expensive, farming becomes less profitable, potentially threatening the region's food production capacity. Additionally, during disasters like the 2022 floods, road closures can disrupt food supply chains, exacerbating food insecurity. Local food solutions through sustainable urban farming and fair, healthy food systems is the way forward.

Reorienting Our Food System

The discussion emphasised the need for a reorientation of our food system, one where we prioritise food production and security alongside housing and infrastructure. Food is a basic human right, and we must ensure that everyone has access to quality, nutritious, and affordable food. This requires a holistic approach that considers food production, distribution, and consumption.

Capturing the Food System Story

For this event we worked with graphic recorder, Michelle Walker. Graphic recording is like visual storytelling that catches the key points of tricky and complex discussions. Michelle was able to capture the entirety of the afternoon’s discussion, graphically illustrating how all the different food system stakeholders intersected in Northern Rivers Region. It was also a great way to show how the food system breaks down in crisis and ways to address this now, so important for the disaster prone region.

The Plan: A Regional Food Roadmap

The roundtable is part of a series bringing together important players in the region to work together on a regional food plan. This plan will show us how to make sure everyone in the Northern Rivers region has access to good, healthy, and affordable food, even if times are tough.

Let's Chat Food!

The future of our food system is up to us. Let's keep the conversation going and working together to create a sustainable and fair food system for the Northern Rivers and in our own backyards.

A huge thank you to the incredible organisers –

  • Fiona Berry – worked tirelessly to get this roundtable on the agenda in the region, and so much more;
  • Iris Ritt – Northern NSW LHD – champion working with Riley and others, our support team on the ground who organised all things logistics;
  • Dr Nick Rose - Sustain's Executive Director.

Click to find information on speaker bios, our agenda and speaking topics.

You can read more about the Roundtable in the write-up in the Echo.