May 22, 2008 | Ronda Jambe

Get ready to put your money where your mouth is

Australia has been a cornucopia, a near paradise of abundant food for most as long as most of us can recall. Droughts notwithstanding, our access to beautiful produce, fine meat and wonderful fish (not to mention great wine) has been something we can happily take for granted.
salad collander.jpg
The rest of the world struggles to feed itself, and more so than previously it seems. There are concerns that the development of the entire African continent could be threatened by food shortages; ASEAN calls for more cooperation on food security for south east Asia, and Russia is planning to buy extra grain, just in case.
In Australia, a Victorian report om Secure and Sustainable Food Systems says we are a decade behind other countries in planning for food security. But could serious shortages ever hit us? Stories abound: a baker says flour has doubled, and the price has to be passed on. We don’t even shudder at these stories. They are part of the new normal, a world of less certainty and more upheavals.
One of the many definitions of food security is the availability, affordability, accessibility and quality of food. Tick all those boxes for most of us. But a key agricultural zone in South Australia will get no water from the Murray Darling this year. How will that affect the price of stone fruit? We can perhaps accept that the days of cheap food are over, as many are saying.
In a little chat with an ACT Minister last week, I was pleased to hear that even they are starting to pay attention to food security. I had asked if the ACT has a population policy, but no. Apparently Barry Jones did some work a few decades ago, calling for a population policy for Australia. But no, that hasn’t progressed.
The ACT is ‘looking into’ extending the various community gardens that are scattered around. That will no doubt become a sop to a certain sector of home gardeners, people keen enough to trudge (in their cars probably) to a plot where they can putter about and produce a few veggies to take home. A few dedicated individuals will appreciate this, and the gov will be able to point to it as an initiative with a tick in that box.
Certainly, the strategic document on climate, Weathering the Change, makes no mention of food security. What isn’t yet on the agenda is a more business-like, but holistic approach to feeding a city state like Canberra. Common sense indicates that food is part of wider social and economic activities, and sustainable food needs to be incorporated into sustainable practices that fit in with people’s lives.
Reorienting ourselves away from good and products into services is part of the change we might believe in (but don’t expect to hear Obama spouting forth on local gardens just yet). Since underemployment is also a challenge, and obesity, why not bring it all together and have places where the less wealthy can grow the food and the richer or more busy can buy it? The term ‘sweat equity’ still applies, and those who weed the veggies get some for free. We could move towards edible landscapes, where fruit trees and berry bushes are watered and kept free of pests. I’d gladly participate, picking berries to get a discount. All this is possible, some new model for both engaging each other in local action and promoting local food is long overdue.
Until the penny drops, be prepared to pay more for inefficiently produced food hauled in from afar. And enjoy it while it lasts. All of this would be purely academic, but it hasn’t rained properly in Canberra for many months, and I miss it.
jasmine rain.jpg

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 8:43 am | Comments (1) |
Filed under: Environment

1 Comment

  1. Ronda, we’re doing an OLO feature on Feeding the World. Do you want to adapt this for that? Or perhaps do something new?

    Comment by Graham Young — May 22, 2008 @ 5:35 pm

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