Transitioning to a resource smart food system is at the heart of the United Nation’s sustainable development goals. It is imperative that we continue to localise our systems and take ownership of and responsibility for this transition.
To set the scene locally…
The Great Southern region in Western Australia is located on Minang country, and has a land area of 39, 000 sq km consisting of 11 Shires. We have approx 61, 000 people living in the GS with 40, 000 of those people living in the City of Albany, located on the coast 4.5 hours south of Perth.
The Great Southern is a relatively low income region, especially when compared to Perth metropolitan area – with a median weekly personal income of $522.
The Great Southern is the second largest agricultural region in Western Australia in terms of production value. Producing over >AUD $1 billion agricultural produce per year. Food production in the region is increasingly diverse, with aquaculture, horticulture and viticulture complementing established livestock/poultry, grain and wild capture seafood production.
WA Farmers Federation have stated that WA exports 80% of raw produce(grains, meat, diary, fruit, vegetables) and in 2012 Pollard and Bornman reported in ‘The Way Forward: Food Security and Healthy Food in Western Australia’ that at least 75% of WA’s food is imported and comes into the State via the Nullarbor, the Port of Fremantle or through the Perth Airport. All of these transport routes are prone to disruptions.
The WA Food Access and Cost Survey 2013 shows that food costs significantly increase with distance from Perth. And many areas of the Great Southern are classed as remote and very remote, where food costs are even higher. The mean cost of a healthy food basket in very remote areas is 23 to 29 per cent more than in metropolitan areas. Households on low incomes and welfare incomes spend a much greater proportion of income on food.
In 2016 Food Bank Albany provided the community with 20, 000 meals per month or 240, 000 meals per year and demand for this service is steadily increasing.
The Great Southern Health Profile classifies 33% of Great Southern Adults as Obese, which is 1.2% higher than the state average and 9% of children are classified as obese. 53% children do not eat the recommended daily serves of vegetables and 28% do not eat the recommended daily serves of fruit.
The Great Southern Region is known for its world-class food and wine, beautiful beaches, cave systems, tall tree forests, and in-season, whale-watching and wildflowers. The region is one of the world’s 34 biodiversity hot-spots – with 80 per cent of plant species found nowhere else on Earth. But this biodiversity is also subject to a range of threatening processes.
Its under threat from the ongoing impacts of agricultural clearing, habitat reduction, through fragmentation; weed invasion; salinity; rising water tables and grazing. Many species and ecosystems are highly localised and under threat from feral animals and introduced species; inappropriate fire regimes; and plant disease.
Now Ive set the scene for you…this is where the Food for Thought story begins…