Led by the University of Sydney’s Sydney Environment Institute, in collaboration with the City of Sydney, UNSW Canberra, TAFE NSW and FoodLab Detroit in the US, the program centres on a custom-designed training course that will support residents with ideas for food businesses or social enterprises.
The lab provides a supportive environment where participants learn from business mentors and thought leaders. Access to kitchen spaces and retail opportunities will provide vital support to those who want to develop their own local food enterprises.
“Our vision is to increase everyone’s access to healthy and affordable food by enabling all residents to dictate the terms of their inclusion in our rapidly growing city through voice and participation,” said Dr Alana Mann from the Sydney Environment Institute.
FoodLab Sydney will be led by Dr Mann together with Professor David Schlosberg, Co-Director of the Institute, and Dr Luke Craven from UNSW Canberra.
The City of Sydney has embraced the project as an innovative way of providing both employment pathways for Sydney residents and economic stimulus in local communities.
Approximately 17,000 residents in the City of Sydney are food insecure with unreliable access to sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food, according to the 2018 Wellbeing Survey.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the City of Sydney is proud to support the launch of the lab through a $120,000 knowledge exchange grant over three years. “Our knowledge exchange and grants programs help our community find innovative ways to solve the problems all cities face,” the Lord Mayor said.
“FoodLab Sydney is a fantastic example of how collaboration between academics, businesses and residents can produce new ideas and opportunities. I look forward to seeing the fruits of FoodLab Sydney in the future.”
Like the highly successful FoodLab Detroit model, the Sydney version focuses on providing people with the opportunities to gain skills, employment and empowerment through food. “For us, food’s more than just food – it’s a tangible, joyful, creative way to promote more healthy, just, resilient communities,” said Executive Director of FoodLab Detroit Devita Davison at the launch.
The long-term goals of the program, which is supported by the Australian Research Council, extend to addressing the complex causes of food insecurity.