Why do we need a People’s Food Plan?
Author | Claire Parfitt
“[W]hat happens in the food system is of no concern to you if you’re never going to eat again. But if you’re intending to have breakfast, lunch or dinner, what happens to [family] farmers, what happens to seeds, what happens to water, matters to you, because your lunch depends on it.”
Nettie Wiebe, former President of the National Farmers Union of Canada, Founding member, La Via Campensia
In 2010, the Australian federal government initiated a process to develop a ‘national food plan’ to set the future course for the country’s food and farming systems. This process, heavily dominated by industry interests and guided by a neoliberal politics and worldview, yields few prospects for the kind of transformative change that our agrifood systems need, in the face of myriad social, economic and ecological crises. In response, the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance, a collaboration of organisations and individuals working together towards fair, sustainable and resilient food systems, decided to initiate a process for developing a People’s Food Plan.
The People’s Food Plan project aims to start a conversation amongst people in Australia about how we produce, distribute and consume food; the pressures on our food and farming systems; and what we can do to ensure that everyone has access to safe, fresh, affordable, culturally appropriate food.
A few weeks ago, the Alliance released a discussion paper which sets out some ideas about the values and principles that should guide the direction of our food system and some best-practice examples of ways we can do things better. The discussion paper, which is the result of close collaboration amongst a group of activists, farmers and scholars, raises issues regarding sustainable agriculture, food distribution, economic power, urban and rural planning, fair trade and healthy eating.
Fundamentally, the People’s Food Plan is based around the notion that food is a human right, and that the food system should be driven by human and ecological needs rather than the profit motive.
The kinds of changes being proposed include re-centering agriculture within ecology; promotion of farmers’ markets and co-operatives in place of the powerful retail duopolists; mechanisms to make fresh, nutritious food more affordable and accessible; ways to re-integrate food needs into urban and rural design; and replacement of ‘free trade’ with ‘fair trade’ between Australia and its neighbours.
The discussion paper now needs the input of the wider community. In the next couple of months, meetings will be held all around the country, in the cities and rural areas, as people come together to comment on the discussion paper, their own personal experiences with the food system and the kinds of changes they would like to see.
In addition to making an intervention in the public debate and proposals for bringing about transformative change, this consultation process is intended as a step towards establishing a more cohesive food justice movement. The Alliance sees this as the start of a long-term process to bring about change. People attending consultation meetings will be invited to provide their contact details and information about their skills, interests and capacity / available time, in preparation for the establishment of working groups in 2013 to enable more in-depth work on the areas covered by the food plan.
If you are interested in participating in this process or running your own consultation meeting, please contact the relevant member of the PFP steering committee for your region: People’s Food Plan Steering Committee.
Claire Parfitt is a research student at the University of Sydney and representative of the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance. She has worked for local and international trade unions and the environment movement, and now writes about food sovereignty.