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Eight things in your food future – City of Melbourne grows a Food Policy

Does your city, town or area have a food policy? Do you know? Do you even care? Well, I suspect if you are one of our lovely readers, that you DO care. A whole lot.  This week I attended a planning meeting at the big town hall in my city.  I’m proud to say that my multicultural, foodie town is in the process of consultation and writing it’s first food policy (you can read the Food Policy Discussion Paper and give feedback here). Just like forward thinking places such as Toronto and New York City.  And during our brainstorming forum the most amazing ideas came forward (and naturally some barriers and cynicism) too.  Come and look through my crystal ball to eight things that may be part of your future…perhaps some of them already are?

1. Curbside compost

There was definite agreement that we want a no waste, closed loop, food system and there was praise for groups like SecondBite already working towards this. And one of the simplest places to start is more composting.  When I was last in NYC I loved seeing women dressed to the nines, in sky high heels dropping of their little baggies of compost at the Union Square Farmers Market.  Imagine if we had a wheelie bin for this on every city corner and at home? That fed the compost back to the local farms?

2. Community kitchens

We’re starting to get the hang of community gardens and school programs like Stephanie Alexander’s School Kitchen Garden Program.  We talked about the Malcolm X school garden program in Berkley too.  But what if every apartment building had it’s own communal kitchen?  Sort of like an upmarket backpackers hostel with a communal shopping list and roster for those who would like to join in…busy, working people and families…with produce supplied by the rooftop garden and mushroom farm built in the old underground car park? And everyone sat and ate and laughed together? And the same system would feed a home cooked meal to the elderly or housebound and support the homeless in your area too? Check out the community kitchens already in Australia.

3. Edible streetscapes

How about we ripped out all the English rose gardens and formal box hedges and devoted public parks and spaces to edible fruit trees, olives and more? What about if every tree on your nature strip was a peach, plum, fig or apple? What if you had no backyard fences and more room for produce? And a fair and online system of swapping and sharing the surplus around?  What if everyone had access to fresh produce and there were no food deserts?

4. Siesta volunteer time

What about if you were given a 2hr work break each day to tend the community or workplace garden? Get some fresh air and vitamin D and be outdoors. Or a farm break for a week to help at harvest time in the local food bowl? Wouldn’t you learn to appreciate your food provenance, your farmers and seasonal eating?  Did you know a surprising amount of the food produced in my state (Victoria) is grown on the fringe of Melbourne within 100km of the city, including over 50% of the states vegetables and 17% of the fruit?

5. Dietitians and home economists back in schools

What about if every school like in Japan, had a dietitian managing school lunches, completing child health checks and working on nutrition education? What if every child (and their parents) learned core cooking skills, just like Jamie Oliver keeps emphasising? What if we curbed our climbing rates of obesity?  Are you surprised that the other dietitians in the room voted for this one?

6. Ultimate food labelling

What if we finally nailed the perfect labelling system, that clearly let you chose a product on nutrition merits? On ethical standards? On country, area and farm of origin? On sustainability targets? Fair trade? Oh and on taste of course too.

7. Safe food, restaurants and food service

What if we never had another food recall?  What if fresh produce was never tainted with an ecoli outbreak? What if every food outlet could handle the increasing number of people with food intolerances and allergies? And prepare and appreciate nutritious food? What if state of the art technology and training drove greater food production the natural, organic way, with no artificial additives, pesticides, herbicides or GMOs?

8. Wholesome food coupons

What if our welfare system directed people to healthier choices by food coupons for farmers markets, like that by the USDA ? Or  like Healthy Start in the UK, where parents get vouchers for milk, fruit and vegetables? And what if no one experienced food insecurity? And no one went hungry?

A monumental task, I hear you say.  As if, I hear you say. Politics and budgets and profits will get in the way, I hear you say. But I say, if we dream big, write it down and start the baby steps, anything is possible.  How about you lovely readers? What happens in your home or city? What is your dream for our food future? Love to hear your comments below:

  • Sarah Fitzmaurice

    Hi Em, interesting read. I particularly love the idea of the wholesome food coupons.

  • I love it! I just want to see the great ideas actioned…that always seems to be the greatest challenge! Next time bring me along with you, I think I could throw some more spanners in the wood work when it comes to idea generation for a healthier future 🙂

  • Tim Salisbury

    Hi, good ideas except for ” Ripping out Rose beds “.

    Touch my Roses and your compost !


  • Fleur

    Sorry Tim – I thought the edible streetscapes were one of the best ideas. Possibly one of the more achievable.

  • Alice Pryor

    Love edible streetscapes, Diggers Club have being doing some great work on this for a number of years. I love visiting and checking out brightly coloured, functional but decorative gardens.

    And Emma – I agree think and dream big, it’s the only way we’ll get there!

  • What a wonderful initiative and I hope all will be implemented soon! I love the idea of fruit trees around Melbourne for everyone to access. Herbs would be great too!

  • Great stuff. There are so many lemon trees, particularly, around Melbourne dripping with fruit. Too often the lemons just hit the ground and rot or dry out on the vine whilst they are 80c (ish) each in the shops.
    Massive opportunity for someone to care for the trees (pruning, feeding, harvesting…) in return for the excess fruit. Could do with cumquats, grapefruits and oranges too.
    Create a community of fuit tree owners and kick it off.
    could use time richer grey labour to make it happen.

  • Thanks for all the comments. C’mon Tim…a few roses between the kaffir lime thorns would be ok? Ornamental cabbages look beautiful planted on mass too. What are some new ideas?

  • Pieta

    Wow I loved reading this! I share your vision – I have had dreams of creating a food system such as this in my local region.

    I would love to see my City Council develop a large community garden and orchard with an outdoor cooking space that can be shared by the whole community and used to celebrate our cultural diversity.

  • Lauren

    Great ideas! I am fully behind ‘siesta volunteer time’…

    Just as a note of interest, my little country town (Armidale, NSW) has recently distributed ‘green’ wheelie bins to all households for organic waste that is collected fortnightly and taken to a communal compost heap (as far as I understand…). No idea on how successful this has been so far (as it’s only in it’s beginning stages) but a step forward none the less!

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