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Together towards a fairer food system in the Illawarra

Berbel Franse, Food Fairness Illawara

Food Fairness Illawarra (FFI) is a community coalition that has been working together since 2005 to make healthy and sustainable food available & affordable for all in the Illawarra.

Navigating the complexity of this mission, FFI’s work is underpinned by the “four dimensions of food security” with aligning goals:

  • AVAILABILITY: To grow a vibrant local food culture and economy which supports growers and producers;
  • ACCESS: To enable Illawarra residents to access affordable, culturally appropriate, nutritius, sustainable and lcal food;
  • USE AND UTILISATION: To enhance food knowledge and skills within our community to make healthy food choices the norm and accessible to all;
  • STABILITY: To ensure a coordinated, well-structured coalition that enables collective action. 

Recognising how shared purpose, resources and expertise provide more effective, efficient, and sustainable community outcomes. FFI actively collaborates with the three local councils (Kiama, Shellharbour and Wollongong), Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, University of Wollongong, Healthy Cities Illawarra and a wide network of individuals, community groups and charities to unlock fairer food solutions.  

The key ingredients to this collaborative work are:

1. Connection & Collaboration – Bringing our community together to connect with others, share information & resources to continually strengthen our local fair food movement.

2. Advocate – Highlighting local issues and lobbying for policy and planning development that contributes to a fair food system.

3. Empower – Providing the tools and highlighting opportunities to participate in building a fair food system.

4. Educate – Driving the fair food conversation across all levels of society, through our colourful and fresh social media channels, website and newsletter.

5.  Research – Contribute to (where our capacity allows) and utilizing the evidence base to inform FFI activities.

And last but not least:

6. Governance – to maintain our coordinated, well-structured coalition.

We all have a role to play when it comes to our food

There is urgent action required by industry and all levels of government to improve policies and strategies to support a more sustainable, resilient and local food system. While this is something FFI continuously advocates for, the coalition urges that they cannot do it alone and we all have a role to play when it comes to our food.

Research by the New Citizenship Project (UK) has shown that the simple fact of addressing people as ‘citizens’, rather than ‘consumers’, makes them more likely to care about one another, act collectively, or actively participate in society. With this in mind, FFI has developed a number of resources and pathways that enable the broader Illawarra community to actively participate in building a more healthy and sustainable food system and future. 

Starting with the practical Fair Food Field Guide, which provides an overview of digestible steps we can each take to participate. From how to grow your own to shopping local and minimising waste. Each of the 6 chapters holds a set of participation options with corresponding information, resources and downloads. 

Next is the comprehensive Fair Food Directory, which provides an overview of the great variety of fair food educators, advocates, producers and assets we are blessed with in the Illawarra – from school & community gardens, to organisations who accept food donations and providers of fair food volunteer opportunities.

We also have the interactive Events Calendar, which provides an overview of all the awesome fair food events that are hosted in and by our community. And speaking of events, make sure to check out the  Healthy & Sustainable Events Guide. This practical guide with an easy checklist and useful signage empowers our community organisers to host events in a way that minimizes potential negative impacts on both the environment, our food system and our health.

And of a slightly larger magnitude the Wollongong Online Farmers Market (WOFM). Launched earlier this year in partnership with Healthy Cities Illawarra to provide convenient access to the best sustainable produce from our region, whilst providing local producers (including emerging and backyard growers) with an additional distribution channel. Working together with over 32 amazing local producers, WOFM exclusively stocks food that is grown or produced within the boundaries of the Illawarra and adjoining LGAs .

About the author: Berbel Franse

Berbel Franse is a passionate advocate for a fairer, more resilient and sustainable food system. Equipped with a background in Supply Chain Management and Masters in Sustainability Science, Berbel works actively towards this as Program Manager (Food Security & Food Sustainability) with Healthy Cities Illawarra, coordinator of Food Fairness Illawarra, founder of Hidden Harvest and driver behind the Wollongong Online Farmers Market.

Contact: [email protected]