By Eva Perroni


Melbourne is a city renowned for its deep love affair with all things food. Its thriving, diverse and quality food scene, the many weekly markets with their emphasis on fresh Australian produce, and the embrace of multicultural food traditions and cuisines are embodiments of the city’s rich food culture. The way Melbournians engage with food is an important part of how we connect as people and communities, while also influencing the strength of our local economy and the quality of our environment.


Melbourne’s temperate climate allows a wide variety of foods to be grown close to Melbourne all year round. Melbourne’s highly productive foodbowl, the productive agricultural area located on the city’s fringe, currently produces 41 percent of the city’s fresh produce. This includes 100 percent of poultry and eggs; 82 percent of vegetables; 63 percent of red meat; 39 percent of dairy; and 13 percent of fruit.


There are, however, signs that Melbourne’s food system is facing serious challenges. A “food system” includes all the activities involved in getting food from field to fork: the growing, harvesting, processing, packaging, transporting, consuming and disposing of food. To highlight just a few concerning food system issues: urban sprawl is encroaching upon outer-Melbourne’s productive farmland; 40 percent of Melbourne’s household rubbish is wasted food; and many people within Melbourne face daily challenges in accessing enough healthy food for a healthy life.


Thankfully, Melbourne is a city that has long recognised the impact food has on the health and wellbeing of its community and is committed to promoting a healthy food system. In 2012, the City of Melbourne created a food policy addressing such issues called Food City. The aim of the policy is to improve people’s health and wellbeing by building a food system that is secure, healthy, sustainable, thriving and socially inclusive.


Food City outlines five key themes, each with their own set of ambitions and key actions to help achieve them. These themes are a strong, food secure community, healthy food choices for all, a sustainable and resilient food system, a thriving local food economy and a city that celebrates food. Some key actions include: creating opportunities for everyone to learn about good food; advocating for the preservation of prime agricultural land on Melbourne’s fringe; and working with existing city food businesses to enhance and promote the availability of healthy food choices.


While Melbourne has always been a city that celebrates food, it is now also a city proudly working to ensure its food sector is strengthening the local economy, encouraging environmentally sustainable food practices and increasing access to nutritious and culturally appropriate food for all of its residents. Along with other research partners and institutions, the City of Melbourne is working to ensure that it isn’t just a city known for its good food, but a city known for making good food available to everyone.


Eva Perroni is an activist-researcher and writer focused on creating a more just and sustainable food system.

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