Around Australia, community food organisations, food charities and social enterprises have been coming together with local government representatives, food justice advocates and policy experts to design a series of Fair Food Futures – scenarios that identify different community-led visions for food system change, sustainability, resilience, equity and justice, and the possible pathways to get us there.
This research has engaged close to a hundred participants from civil society in interviews, participatory workshops and case studies in Moreton Bay and Brisbane (SE Qld), the New Economies Conference 2021, and online workshops nationwide. Starting with key ‘drivers of change’ identified by participants, future scenarios as a method acknowledges that different futures are possible and provides a process for exploring multiple scenarios for embracing or avoiding certain possibilities. These visions have been synthesised and distilled into 4 future scenarios for reducing hunger in the Australian food system.
In the future, fair food looks like …
These scenarios can help communities and policy makers to debate equitable pathways to achieve Zero Hunger and help to reform food system governance with stronger participation from civil society. Towards this goal, our findings show that the above Fair Food Futures are connected by 4 pathways to transformative action that can act as leverage points for policy change: Intersectional solidarity and care; Rights and food for all; Food system as a common good; Resilience beyond crisis. More on this to come soon!
Creating the scenarios – There were originally 6 storylines created from the workshops in Moreton Bay, Brisbane and online. These are presented below: Each one represents a different ‘vision’ for achieving food justice, and while some elements overlap (specifically, they all emphasise localising food production and consumption, reducing hunger by enabling sustainable diets, and participatory governance), they each have slightly different focal points depending on the food system ‘driver’ underpinning the scenario. These drivers were: food insecurity; food movements and activism; sustainable agricultural production methods; land use and urban development; localising supply chains; disasters/pandemics; economic ‘growth’ model; participatory policy making; youth and climate action; and technological development. All of the scenarios below envisage shifting mindsets, building solidarity and ‘re-commoning’ food systems as crucial pathways towards bringing these futures to fruition. The final scenarios bring together key elements presented below:
Food is equally available during a disaster or crisis as it is in ‘normal’ times. This acknowledges that although crises are likely to be more frequent and intense in the future, food systems can provide an important buffer and, thus, become a source of transformation. Food is understood as being part of an interdependent relationship between people, the land, and ecological sensibility.
Food is re-imagined through the lens of governance. Control of the food system is understood as a key pillar of democracy – food policy is designed by and for small-scale farmers and consumers, rather than reflecting the priorities of large agribusiness. ‘Bad food’ is no longer profitable. The right to food, circular economy and a degrowth mindset are key values.
Cities can be places where food is grown and shared on the streets, in verge gardens, parks, backyard gardens and community garden spaces. Food is hyper-localised, and town planning is committed to rethinking land access and repurposing urban spaces to grow more food. Food is seen as a common good – not a commodity – and is supported and regulated as such.
Everyone will be invited to eat at a longer table, where food is accessed more fairly. Social movements have linked hunger to income poverty, meaning that food is a pathway to address wide-ranging inequalities associated with income, housing, health, education, geographic location, and cultural background. Food sits at the centre of peoples’ demands for a broad range of intersectional rights.
Young people are key actors determining the future of the food system. Their powerful food and climate ‘practivism’ has mobilised values and practices based on an ethics of social justice – indigenous values, environmental justice, and grassroots self-determination. Healthy local food is produced by young farmers who access land via farmland trusts and other de-privatised ownership models. Policymaking is genuinely participatory, with young people involved from the beginning. Young people are also empowered and ethical consumers, since food system education is mandated in the Australian school curriculum.
Technology is transformed into a common good infrastructural asset and contributes to fulfilling the rights of users, farmers and eaters everywhere. This has come from strong civic participation in, and ownership of, the latest developments in on-farm technologies, data capture and storage, peer-to-peer networking, as well as new food technologies such as manufactured meat. Agricultural technology is publicly regulated to ensure that it leads to measurable outcomes of ecological resilience, social equity and financial benefit for farmers and communities (rather than just big tech companies or financiers). Cooperative financing and open-source platforms are designed to support multiple, diverse production-consumption pathways, ensuring that technologies can be easily adapted to local contexts by farmers at all scales. Democratic control of technological development, financing and regulation is the key mechanism for achieving this.