Sharing about Sydney’s Community Food Sector

Published by SHARECITY on the 15th October 2019.

Sharing about Sydney’s Community Food Sector

(Photo Source: Miriam Williams 2019, Fagan Park Eco Garden, Sydney, Australia)

In this blog post, Dr Miriam Williams from Macquarie University’s Geography and Planning Department (Australia) writes about her recent visit to Dublin to talk with SHARECITY about her research on Sydney’s community food sector. 

On September 3rd and 4th 2019 I visited the SHARECITY research team to discuss common research interests and present some initial findings from a new research project I am conducting about Community Food provisioning in Sydney, Australia. Inspired by SHARECITY’s work, I want to understand the contribution community food provisioning initiatives collectively make to the broader urban food system and what this might tell us about the ways people are trying to care for people and planet.

From February-July 2019 Lilian Tait, Research Assistant, and I created a database of 421 community food provisioning locations across Sydney. I’m now using the database to analyse where community food provisioning happens, see how they are similar or different and learn more about the initiatives through a questionnaire and some interviews.

Community food provisioning initiatives include collectively run food box schemes, community gardens, food cooperatives, food pantries, food poverty relief initiatives, community farms, community supported agriculture schemes and social enterprises. Each initiative is unique; workers can be paid or volunteer; have specific relationships with farmers, manufacturers or wholesalers; are reliant upon donations from businesses and individuals, or retail sales.  By mapping the initiatives I found that many initiatives are constrained by Sydney’s infamous ‘Latte line’ with few initiatives that are addressing issues of sustainability being present in the south of the city.  But this is not the whole story.

New initiatives such as Box Divvy are emerging that want to change how people access affordable and sustainable food in the city that reduces food waste and gives farmers fair prices. Mobile food pantries or food boxes offered by Anglicare and Staples Bag, a Social Supermarket, are attempting to provide nutritious and affordable options with dignity for people on low incomes by redistributing food. Sydney has a new Community Supported Agriculture Scheme, Five Serves, that provides members with a weekly organic food box subscription and provides local growers with an income.

Despite often being hidden, community food initiatives play an important role in feeding people and innovatively addressing concerns about sustainability and food insecurity in cities. Thousands of people support community food initiatives in Sydney by donating food, volunteering, gardening or shopping there. They are more than just about food, they can also be places of connection and care for people and planet that offer ways for us to potentially reimagine how we grow, supply and consume food in the city.

Thank you to the SHARECITY team once again for having me visit as together we contribute to growing knowledge about the diverse ways people are sharing tables, breaking bread and growing food in the city.


Miriam can be contacted via e-mail or on twitter @drmwilliams


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