Comprising of chefs, university researchers and lecturers, media planners and strategists, campaign managers, permaculturalists, event organisers, dieticians, designers, and policy writers, Sydney’s freshest food initiative, the Youth Food Movement, sounds more like a powerful political party than a humble not-for-profit organisation. With grand concerns about our city’s and our country’s food future, this small army of educated folk and folkettes is spear heading the way when it comes to sustainable food for thought.
A quick poke around the YFM website will tell you a few things about this flourishing organisation. Firstly, they are passionate. Passionate about eating food, talking about food, writing about food, changing the way we think about food, and everything else that involves, you guessed it – food. Secondly, they are compassionate. No, really, and if you’re like me (you’re not a foodie or an outstanding do-gooder), then just hold on, keep reading. See, when the team members aren’t organising documentary screenings or group bike rides, a few of them are at their desk jobs working for other amazing organisations such as WWF and the Australian Red Cross. Why wouldn’t you listen to a message that comes from people that save the lives of both pandas and humans?!
To find out more about the YFM I spoke briefly with YF co-founders Joanna Baker and Alexandra Iljadica – a public health researcher at UNSW.
Tell me in your own words what the Youth Food Movement is and why people should get involved.
The Youth Food Movement is a formidable part of the budding food movement growing through Sydney. We envision a Sydney, and an Australia with a generation of young Australians who are thoughtful with the decisions they make around food. These decisions collectively use food as a means of creating solutions for our wounded food system. We also want to make sure that our voices are heard (a little louder than they are now) in political and other conversations about food, so that we can have our say in the decision that impact our food future. Imagine if your community had an even better thriving food culture. A culture that gave you skills and ideas rather than took them away. But most importantly a culture that included the environment in it’s community and gave back as much as it took. The Youth Food Movement is making this community a reality, and this is why you should get involved.
Your approach to spreading the YFM message is focused on ‘knowledge, attitude and practice’. What are the ideas behind these premises?
In order to encourage tangible and enduring change amongst individuals and communities, YFM combines three key ingredients of knowledge, attitude and practice when creating our events, campaigns and experiences. Applying these key principles to everything we do, ensures that we present something that is relevant and understandable for all, regardless of their current level of knowledge. For example, you may be fresh out of school and just learning what organic food means, or you may be an avid gardener who knows the ins and outs of what climate change is doing to our food supply. Regardless of where you’re at, our hope is that you experience something that is meaningful to you and broadens your knowledge and changes your attitude or perspective.
You’ve had success throwing events in the past including movie screenings and bike rides. How have they been and what is coming up in the future?
Our events have been a huge success, and what’s best is that we don’t just get young city folk coming, we get people from regional Australia (yes, other states and cities) and a some oldies too – these guys always have the best stories to share too as their food history is so different from our own. People who came to the Ride On Lunch, or the Reel Food Night have also told us that there was an immediate sense of camaraderie between themselves and the other people in the room (or on the road). Food, we believe, is just one of those things that unifies people, and we’ve found this immensely helpful because often we are talking about quite complex issues which can leave you feeling overwhelmed and more helpless than before the event. This sense of community allows people to focus on solutions, opportunities and realistic change, and most importantly, provides them with an opportunity to act on their newfound ideas. YFM is less about talking and all about the doing!
2013 for us will be about building on the amazing conversations and ideas that came up in 2012. The issue that the average age of the Australian farmer is nearing 60 is one that is of great concern to us. We can see that both “the feeders and the fed” have a lot to offer to the solutions around this issue, particularly people new to the farming world as they aren’t afraid to try something different. This issue has the potential to significantly impact Australia’s food security in the not too distant future, so it’s certainly something we will be focusing on in 2013.
As a team we’re also intrigued by the idea of food perfection and standardisation and the impact this has on our food system as a whole. What is a tomato or a carrot meant to look like? Round or straight and only so many centimeters long? At YFM we believe imperfect is perfect and we want to know more about the impact standardised food has on food waste, food attitudes and our food producers. Because of this, these two themes will be the focus of our events and campaigns throughout the year.
Can you describe what the average YFMer is like? Will they be welcoming to us non-foodies?
We believe strength and resilience in a food system is created through diversity. YFM is very much a reflection of this belief, with all our members hailing from a range of backgrounds, cultures and industries. We are researchers, sustainability experts, chefs, permaculturalists, dieticians, media planners and strategists, educators, do gooders, policy writers, campaigners, farm hands, advocates, gardeners, producers, baristas and lecturers. What unites us is our love for food, our desire to see change and our belief in the unique and significant contribution young Australians can make to the conversations and decisions that are shaping our food future.
Sally Hill from the team was recently on a panel curated by The City of Sydney on ‘How food is changing the cultural and community life of cities‘. Can you tell me how this came about and what was discussed at the event?
We were extremely excited to be asked to be part of the panel at the City of Sydney, City Talks event recently. The night was about understanding how food is changing the cultural and community life of Sydney. Our inspiring Sally Hill did a stellar job of bringing YFM’s voice to the table.
It was a really ‘meaty’ panel discussion and we took the opportunity to highlight the significant and unique contribution young Australians can make to the paradigm shift that is need to shape our food future to one that is healthy and secure. In order create a food system that is diverse and resilient, we simply cannot keep producing and distributing food the way we are currently, and have done in past. We want to create a food system where the wellbeing of the community, environment and food producers is at its core. Rather than the current food system, which is driven by motivations of increased production and economic gain.
Why do we care about this so much? One day our parents and peers (including current decision makers) are going to ask us to be able to feed the country responsibly, while dealing with some inherited hurdles. To do this, we need to be equipped with the skills and knowledge of the past. We need to be included right now in conversations, activities and choices about food so that we can provide our elders and the community with everything they need in the future.