In the dusty, smoky skies and crackling heat of summer, the future looms full of challenges. We want to breathe and exercise without concern outdoors, eat and live well. We want food that nourishes us, celebrates our families, cultures and the place we live but does not overburden natural systems, send farmers broke or make us sick.
The last point is important. The agriculture-food sector is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. It can have major impacts on biodiversity, water and nutrient cycles. Many of us consume far too much of the wrong foods, and around 60 per cent of us are overweight or obese. We need win-win solutions. In the ACT, real progress has been made on transforming the energy and transport sectors, is it time to think about food?
Some solutions lie in continuing to diversify our diet, drawing on our rich multicultural heritage - in approach as well as ingredients. The much-celebrated Mediterranean diet is also about eating together, sharing produce, food preparation and enjoying company. That's good for mental as well as physical health.
Exploring different cuisines provides tasty options for increasing vegetables and reducing red meat - the clear health message. There are great opportunities for entrepreneurs in this space. In a region where people once feasted on Bogong Moths, could eating (farmed) insects again become part of our local food culture?
We have recently seen supermarkets run out of food on the South Coast and many of our drought-stressed farmers are still facing fires. What happens if the ACT region is cut off from its food supply? Our local food production is varied but dispersed - and needs support. There is also scope to increase backyard and urban production. In our early years there was great support for the ACT to be self-sufficient in food; do we need to revisit this?
Minimising food waste is an essential step and another fascinating new frontier. The unused parts of food hold great promise for food technologists. Resilient pests and weeds can be viewed differently: the prickly pear cactus that Australia spent millions of dollars eradicating is now recognised as a healthy food.
The University of Canberra is sharing some of the science behind these questions. At this year's Multicultural Festival on February 23. Whether you have questions you've been burning to ask an expert or ideas to share, we look forward to seeing you.
Response by: Assistant Professor Ro McFarlane & the University of Canberra Disciplines of Public Health, and Nutrition and Dietetics.
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