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Food and Social Connections- SInet Seminar, 22nd March 2010

The first SInet seminar for 2010 focussed on the links between food and communities.  A mix of university and local community members heard about local food issues from several perspectives, local to national. The importance of social connection with food was highlighted, for health and welfare outcomes, as well as economic development, equity and environmental benefits.  The event was timely, coinciding with the announcement that Food Futures was a new sub-network of SInet for 2010 (together with a second sub-Network, Green Theme) and that SInet had received research network support from the University for the next triennium, 2010-2013.

Jeanette Longfield, Co-ordinator of Sustain, the keynote speaker, started with some insights from her work connecting between local community concerns and national food policies in the UK.  Sustain is a UK alliance which advocates on food and agriculture policies to enhance health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, enrich society and culture and promote equity.  

Nick Gill, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UoW, then spoke about his local research with farmers in the Kiama area.  His work is exploring the social and farming impacts of changing land ownership in this primarily rural area.

Deanne Condon-Paoloni, Health Sciences, UoW, outlined her activities with the local Food Fairness Illawarra network.  Through her own work and that of senior Population Health students, a comprehensive map of local food outlets, public transport and areas of food need has been developed, highlighting local food access issues in the Wollongong area.

Heather Yeatman, Health Sciences, UoW, spoke about her current involvement with the national Review of Food Label Law and Policy, a COAG initiative.  She outlined some of the detail of the first consultation paper of the Review, which is out for public consultation until 14th May.  

Vanessa John, Wollongong City Council, provided a very practical illustration of how local councils can work together to promote communities involvement with their foods – such as farmers markets, community & school gardens, gardening and food processing workshops.  The Illawarra biodiversity and food project has been funded for 3 years and is keen to involve more groups in the education, training and evaluation aspects of its implementation.

The evening seminar was chaired by Sandra McCarthy, mayor, Kiama Council, who also had a food story to tell.  The Kiama Council has been involved in food and social connections for many years through their Health and Social Plan, regularly holding farmers’ markets and supporting community food gardens.  In addition, they are keen to explore ways to promote economic development through local agriculture, recognising the unique opportunities that Kiama may have to supply the Sydney region with fresh horticultural and other foods.

Heather Yeatman

Executive Director, SInet

Last reviewed: 29 April, 2010


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