Why I call myself a food advocate

This is the first post in a series on Food Advocacy, which will focus on my own personal journey as a food advocate and finish with ways in which you can get involved in food advocacy. 

Hi, I’m Kylie. I’m a food advocate. Most people don’t really know what that means. The thing is it’s pretty tricky to explain exactly what a food advocate does, and more importantly, why I do what I do. 

Ever since I was 14, I knew I wanted to work in a profession that was focused on food. Initially I trained as a Dietitian and worked for many years seeing patients in a hospital and the community, setting goals together on how they could improve their eating habits. After a few years I soon realised this wasn’t for me. I saw just how challenging it can be for people to eat better in a world where ultra-processed foods are readily available, heavily promoted, and often low-priced. 

I also saw that these challenges weren’t related to someone’s will power, but instead due to our surroundings. I had this gut feeling that I was more suited to the prevention side of nutrition and dietetics and so I applied for a job as a Public Health Nutritionist. It was a really steep learning curve to stop focusing on how to improve one person’s health to how we could improve the entire populations! Yet, I found it so much more rewarding. Over the last 15 years, I’ve worked in a diverse number of roles which ultimately aimed to prevent chronic disease and improve the population’s health and wellbeing through better food and nutrition.

One fateful day in 2007 I saw Tim Lang speak at a conference. His words still resonate with me today. He said,

‘Nutritionists say eat two serves of fish a day for good health,

Environmentalists say eat less fish because world stocks are depleting.’

Once again, my gut was telling me that I needed to know more about this. It’s funny how sometimes serendipity steps into your life when you least expect it. The following day I flew out to the United Kingdom to start a new job as a Public Health Nutritionist in Birmingham. When I found out that Tim coordinated the Masters of Food Policy at City University, London, I enrolled later that same year. 

Ten years on I am still incredibly grateful for everything I learnt in that course. In particular, it encouraged me to think about the strong connection food has to a number of policy areas. Food is inextricably linked to nutrition and good health. It’s linked to climate change. It’s connected deeply to food security and social justice issues. Food waste is a huge and complex matter. The list goes on. We need to start looking at all of these issues through a food systems lens, rather than separately. 

We’re getting better at doing that in Australia, yet we still have a long way to go. That’s why I do what I do. I advocate for a better food system. I advocate because I want to live in a world where:

  • Everyone has equal access to affordable, quality and nutritious food. 
  • Farmers are paid a fair and reasonable price for their produce. 
  • Food is grown free of chemicals.
  • Governments prioritise putting the health and wellbeing of its people ahead of the profits of big business. 
  • New farmers have access to affordable land, sufficient water and healthy soils. 
  • Healthy food and drinks are more easily accessible and appealing than the readily available, highly processed alternatives.
  • All of our food is grown in a way that nurtures and nourishes the soil and land on which it’s produced. 
  • Food is once again, grown in our cities, grown close to where people live. 
  • We know where our food comes from.  
  • We eat in line with the seasons.
  • Governments prioritise and support farming practices that regenerate our soils and improve biodiversity. 
  • We learn and listen to our Indigenous ancestors on using traditional land management practices.
  • Healthy and sustainable diets are the norm.
  • We eat imperfect shaped fruits and vegetables.
  • Food waste is no longer an issue.

Can you imagine a world like this? I can. And it’s the reason that I wake up each morning and do what I do. 

Some days the size and weight of the issues completely overwhelms me. Some days I think to myself ‘how on earth are we going to make any difference to the status quo?’ And then I remind myself that we all have to part to play in transforming the food system. We all have a role to take action to support a healthier, more sustainable and fairer food system. If you want to live in the same world as me then stand with me in making a difference. 

Whether you buy direct from a small-scale farmer. Choose to compost your food scraps. Grow some of your own food. Advocate to your local council about setting up a community garden in your suburb. Or even join a community garden! There are so many things you can do right now to get involved. 

Together we can transform the food system to create the world WE want to live in. Looking for ways in which you can do this?  Sign up to my newsletter for a free eBook on ‘15 ways to be a food citizen’ 

Tell me, what world do you want to live in?

Next in the series I’ll share with you some of the things I do to advocate for a better food system. 

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