We all talk about food; every single day. And in the recent times, there has also been quite an emphasis on the ‘farm to table’ concept. But still our knowledge of where our food comes from remains a mystery to most of us, especially the youth.
With the world becoming smaller in terms of trade, food today enjoys a global status. While our knowledge of ingredients, cooking techniques, food from around the globe etc…seems to have increased, our knowledge of the actual food chain and the processes involved seems to have diminished.
And that is exactly what Joanna Baker and Alexandra Baker decided to change when they began the ‘Youth Food Movement’ four years ago.
YFM is a nationwide volunteer-led organization that runs food education projects for the Australian youth.
‘We aim to build the skills, knowledge and experience that young people have around food. More than that, we empower them to take those skills, knowledge and experiences out into the world and create the food system that they believe in.’
Excerpts from my interview with Thea Soutar, National Community Manager and Sydney Chapter Leader of YFM;
Youth Food Movement – How did this concept take birth?
YFM was born out of a university assignment. Not that it was the assignment itself, but our two co-founders, Joanna Baker and Alexandra Baker met during a university tutorial and soon realized they shared each other’s passion for food, and drive to help build a better system. YFM Australia was founded 4 years ago as a way for young people to come together, talk about the problems they – and Australia – face in the food system and actually do something about it.
What is YFM’s core philosophy?
Our approach is based on the belief that peer-to-peer learning – yep that’s young people teaching and sharing with other young people – is the most powerful way to create change.
We aim to make complex issues around food accessible, tangible and human. Above all, we create projects which appeal to young people’s sense of play. We’re also not prescriptive – we don’t believe in telling young people what to think or how to think – we simply advocate for the importance of understanding your food and making your choices count.
What do you intend to achieve through this movement?
The vision of this movement is a healthy and secure food future. And when we talk about health, we don’t just mean healthy bodies, we mean the health of our farming communities, and the health of environment too. Because it’s not possible to have the health of one, without the health of the others.
Educating our youth about food in its entirety could hold the answer to our country’s food problems. How exactly do you achieve this, at a ground level?
At a ground level, we create food education projects for young people. Our organization is essentially run by a hugely passionate, dedicated, hard-working group of young people who think that we can work towards something better. They run on the ground projects, in town halls, in pubs, in kitchens, which connect their friends and peers with where their food comes from. By creating young communities that care about food, we believe we can help build that vision.
What are the current and ongoing projects?
We just wrapped up everything with our last big project, BeefJam, and are beginning to plan out some exciting new plans in the Sydney team. We can’t tell you more than that at the moment before we’ve made official announcements, but you can expect more Meet the Makers, some food mapping projects and farm tours in the not too distant future.
Beef Jam sounds like an extremely interesting project. Could you give us more details about it and what the organization hopes to achieve with this project?
BeefJam was a project we ran with Target 100, an initiative that represents Australian cattle and sheep farmers, to help young Australians understand how their beef reaches their plates and how the red meat system really works. We took young producers and consumers on a crash course of the Australian beef supply chain and give them 48hrs to reshape the way we grow, buy and eat our red meat.
Why did we do it? Our approach to shakin’ up the food system for the better – and there are many ways to do this – are about two things. Firstly, to open up honest dialogue between farmers (and those who represent them) and consumers, so that as young people we can help support the food system we want. And secondly, it’s to use the energy of young people to channel that dialogue into action. So that ultimately we don’t just talk about change, we actually do it. That’s what BeefJam is all about.
We want to share with producers the things that drive our beliefs, our motivations for getting up in the morning, and what we value. Equally, we want to understand the realities of how food in Australia gets to the table. We’d like a firsthand experience of how farmers manage their animals, how they are caretakers of the land and how we, as informed consumers, share some of the responsibility. Summarised in one word, we want transparency, and we want this information freely available to our community.
No movement can be without its fair share of challenges and obstacles. What are the issues YFM faces in achieving its goals?
Our issues are many of the typical issues faced by a not-for-profit – we always need to make sure we have the funding we need to roll out our projects and the resources to make them shine. We’re also regularly inundated with interest from young people wanting to get on board – sometimes more than we can even deal with. It’s always a challenge to make sure everyone has a really positive and affirming experience of volunteering, but it’s a challenge we love to have.
What is the best way for anyone to get involved with YFM or be a volunteer?
Young people can sign up to be a part of the movement and volunteer from our website. We’ll direct them to their closest chapter so they can find out more about what it’s all about. Check out our website for more details or follow us on Facebook or Instagram to learn more about our work and get the latest updates.
Disclaimer – This is not a sponsored post; this is an endeavour to get the Australian youth more involved in the food system and contribute positively towards a healthier tomorrow.