Today’s young farmers and young consumers believe the future of food and farming lies in their hands. However, both groups acknowledge there are many obstacles to being able to work together to solve the challenges facing food and farming.
Importantly, both next-gen consumers and farmers feel they do not currently have a big enough say in how food is farmed, sold and consumed. This is despite the fact that 80% of consumers and 94% of farmers agree that they already have opinions on what food should be produced and how.
It’s not surprising therefore that there is strong agreement that governments and food production companies need to listen to farmers and consumers when making decisions, and that consumers need to be more involved in how their food is farmed.
Despite support for collaboration and partnership, farmers and consumers believe that certain barriers prevent them from coming together. Among these are lack of knowledge about — or understanding of — each other, perceived socioeconomic differences and no means of direct communication. Source
At Picture You in Agriculture we know young people can be empowered to solve tomorrow’s problems today.
Through The Archibull Prize and Kreative Koalas we are providing a platform where young farmers and young consumers can come together to talk about vital issues and solutions like sustainability and climate smart agriculture.
We help them amplify and activate their ideas.
Agriculture is an excellent platform for the exploration of a range of issues and the development of skills in establishing and testing solutions to modern day challenges.
Many of the views and understandings that students and the community have on agriculture are developed from mainstream media, social media or from interactions with their peers and other community member.
Using concepts like the Sustainability Circle students can build the skills and knowledge to be critical and creative thinkers and conscious consumers and use their informed opinions to be influential communicators.
Agriculture in Australia faces significant environmental and economic impacts brought about by climate change. Mitigating and adapting to the negative effects on agricultural ecosystems of weather variations is strategically important to national resilience.
Australian have enjoyed cheap, safe and high-quality food for many decades, and we produce enough food today to feed 73 million people – almost three times our current population.
While these are comforting statistics and our agricultural products are important, when put into a global context, we produce enough to feed only 2% of the Asian population, so we cannot claim, now or even potentially, to be the “food bowl of Asia”.
Addressing the global food security problem will depend upon the development and delivery of technologies that lead to increased food production. But this must be achieved without increasing the area under production, since arable land is now limited, and under conditions where the frequency and severity of climate “shocks” are likely to increase due to the effects of climate change.
Agriculture has an excellent record of productivity growth over the past 50 years, allowing global production to meet the large population increase and, for countries such as Australia, these gains have kept food prices low.
Agricultural production has remained important to our economy because we have effectively developed and delivered new technologies through a strong research base and a highly skilled and innovative farming community. We have been able to maintain our position even though we produce food on the driest inhabited continent, on low quality soils and with continual climate variability.
Our agricultural research and development (R&D) capability ranks among the best in the world, and more recently Australia has developed a strong capability in climate change research including studies on impacts, adaptation and mitigation. We can now implement this capability to enhance agricultural production both in Australia and in our region.
These strengths provide a solid foundation to catalyse transformation of the agricultural industries to address regional food security. Australia can make a significant contribution to the task because we have extensive experience in dealing with difficult and low input productions systems.
Our record in applying this experience may not have been perfect but we are now making serious attempts to address our past omissions. Indeed, we will have little choice given the predicted impact of climate change on our agricultural production regions.
Our previous reliance on water and energy to drive up yields is not an option for the next phase of productivity gains.
Healthy soils are part of the solution to some of our dilemmas – poverty, malnutrition and climate change – as they underpin processes that gives us food, energy and water. If we want to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, soil health is a linchpin we cannot ignore.
From this perspective, agricultural practices to maintain healthy soil are clearly an important target for farmers and policymakers. Looking after our soils ultimately means looking after ourselves.
The Sustainability Circle model demonstrates the range of issues that must be balanced and managed by farmers and agricultural professionals when producing food, fibre and energy.
Why farmers farm the way they do may be more complex than it first looks.
Producing affordable, safe and nutritious food means famers must balance production challenges with community expectations while maintaining a profit margin that can sustain their business.
Commonly when sustainability is mentioned, it is environment considerations that are at front of mind. While farmers and the agricultural professionals who support them are highly aware of their responsibilities to manage natural resource under their care, other issues must also be considered.
Sometimes, different community members and groups only focus on only one aspect that they see as important to them. This can leave farmers to meet a combination of unachievable and competing community expectations and regulatory requirements.
The Sustainability Circle highlights this diverse range of issues that must be considered, balanced and managed by farmers and agricultural professionals when producing food, fibre and energy.
The Sustainability Circle is divided into seven sections which are in no particular order and their importance will change depending on the decision under consideration.
With more than four million Australians having experienced food insecurity in the last twelve months, Food Affordability is an important issue. As 800,000 of these Australians are children, producing food and fibre at a price that is both affordable for consumables and results in a profit for farmers is critical. Farmers must make a profit to provide an income for their own family and be able to reinvest in their farm.
Food must also be nutritious. Farmers produce a range of animal and plant products that meet the needs of their customers. As a balanced diet requires a wide and varied diet, Australian farmers respond to this challenge by growing a range of plants and animal to meet these needs.
The safety of food is always front-of-mind for farmers. Farm practices and food delivery systems are designed to keep consumers both healthy and safe.
Like all workplaces, worker safety is important to farmers. Farming practices must keep workers safe and ensure workers return home happy and healthy to their own families.
As farmers often raise animals for food, they are responsible for the wellbeing of these animals while they are in their care. Farmers not only balance animal wellbeing with the other sections of the Sustainability Circle, they must often balance the impacts of treatments which may have short-term negative impacts but have much more positive benefits for the animal in the long term. Rather than simply looking at the impact of a single event on an animal in isolation, farmers must take responsibility for the animal’s wellbeing for the full time that the animal is in their care.
Farmers are active members of their local community, providing jobs, supporting other local business and often sustaining local charities and community groups. Farmers must also respond to changing community expectations over time and engage with the broader community to help answer questions and alleviate concerns about modern farming.
Farmers also rely on Australia’s natural resources to help produce the food we eat and the fibres we use. Many farmers see themselves as stewards of their surroundings and plan to leave the land in a better condition for following generations as well as maintain the biodiversity that supports the plants and animals that share local and regional environments.
The sometimes competing needs and priorities of the Sustainability Circle means decisions are often made by balancing these different aspects. This also means different farmers may make different decisions based on how they are impacted by the different sections.
Farming also involves risk around such things as production, climate and market prices. A farmer must also take account of these future risks in their decision frameworks.
What may look from the outside as a simple action, may or may not be possible due to the complex balancing of the many issues shown by the Sustainability Circle.
Responsible and sustainable production requires and understanding and thoughtful balancing of all the sections of the Sustainability Circle by farmers.
In your PYiA projects (The Archibull Prize and Kreative Koalas) students are encouraged to consider an issue from all the perspectives of the Sustainability Circle. Students may find that there are often several solutions rather than a single way forward. No solution may be ideal with trade-offs required between sectors of the circle. Students can explore the implications of these trade-offs and find different people may view these trade-offs differently.
Australian agricultural industries are committed to supplying safe, affordable, nutritious food from profitable, climate smart resilient farming systems.
To help them meet (or exceed) consumer expectations our farming industries are developing Sustainability Frameworks that allow them to measure, review, improve and report on the key priority areas they have identified in consultation with their stakeholders.
The examples below outline the core pillars and themes of the respective frameworks, under which prioritised material themes are allocated to guide the sustainable development of the relevant sectors.
Best care for animals
Reducing environmental impact
People and community
The lives of people
Farmers are best known for growing crops and raising livestock to provide the food and fibre needs for Australian families, but lately, it’s all about the work they do on the farm to look after the environment.
Today, Australian farmers strive to protect, manage and enhance biodiversity on their land. For example, planting native trees and shrubs on their properties can help alleviate problems such as erosion and soil structure decline, making the land more productive as well as increasing biodiversity and providing natural shelter.
Biodiversity is a priority natural resource management (NRM) issue for farming industries. Farmers nationwide have responded to the challenge of biodiversity conservation by:
NRM is an important activity on 94% of Australian farms, resulting in improved productivity and sustainability. By applying three principles – retain, restore and revegetate – cattle and sheep farmers can protect and even enhance biodiversity on their farms.
Australian farmers are planting more trees for environmental purposes than a decade ago. In 2001, farmers planted 20.6 million tree seedlings for NRM, compared with nine million in 1991. On average, each Australian farmer plants 150 tree seedlings a year, solely for conservation purposes.
Many of Australia’s farmers are active members of Landcare groups, and have been since Landcare’s inception in 1989. Landcare was established by the National Farmers’ Federation and the Australian Conservation Foundation to provide a vision for transformation to ecological sustainability through collective community lead groups.
Initiatives such as Landcare Week are opportunities to recognise the role Australian farmers play as environmental stewards and land managers.
“Today, with support from the federal government, Landcare has grown into an environmental movement. Farmers are Australia’s frontline environmentalists, looking after 61% of Australia’s valuable land resources. After all, farmers have the most to lose if the environment becomes damaged: we simply cannot farm without healthy soils, healthy water resources and healthy air quality.
Farmers know that good environmental outcomes and increased agricultural production go hand in hand, which is why natural resource management is a fundamental activity on Australian farms.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 94% of farmers undertake some form of natural resource management, including planting trees and shrubs, fencing off rivers, streams and gullies to protect regrowth, and restoring wetlands. Australian agriculture has also led the nation in reducing greenhouse gas emissions – a massive 40% reduction between 1990 and 2006.
Australian farmers are also investing financially in natural resource management. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates that the management of soil resources, water resources and biodiversity costs $3.5 billion in Australia annually, around 10% of agriculture’s GDP, and for every government dollar invested, Australian farmers contribute $2.60 in environmental management and protection,” Jock Laurie former president on National Farmers Federation Adapted from an NFF media release For more information, visit the Landcare website: landcareonline.com.au
This material had been adapted from resources created by the CSIRO
The challenge of the 21st century is clear: to feed the world’s growing population while safeguarding our natural resources in the process. We have a long way to go considering one billion people are undernourished today.
With more people to feed and house there is growing competition for land and water and energy between housing land, farming land and mining land Our land, our water and our non-renewable energy are precious resources and we all should use them wisely.
Right now, it takes less than a second to add two people to the world population.
In the same second, farmland available to feed our growing population is shrinking by an area about the size of a soccer field. We must produce more food from less land to feed our growing population.
Past farming practices have left the soil vulnerable to be swept away by wind and rain. Already, an area large enough to feed Europe has been so severely degraded, it cannot produce food.
Better farming practices can halt and even reverse the process of soil degradation. At the same time, farmers are now using existing farmland more efficiently.
It is pivotal that governments monitor what is happening to their land and incorporate soil protection measures involving agriculture, forestry, water management, industry and waste disposal sectors.
93% of the food we eat is produced by Australian farmers
Australian farmers look after 60% of the landscape
Only 4% of the Australia’s landscape is suitable for growing crops and fruit and vegetables
By 2050, our global population is expected to reach 9 billion people and the demand for food will grow by 70%.
Even if we convert all remaining land to cropland, we will get nowhere near meeting the future demand for food without increasing agricultural productivity and efficiency.
Success requires farmers having access to a range of agricultural solutions, education to gain necessary skills, and financial incentives. Sustainable farming solutions include not tilling the land, crop rotations, bringing vegetation back to degraded land and planting vegetation around fields to prevent erosion and transitioning to green energy technology.
Resourceful land use also contributes to mitigating climate change. Globally 2 to 3 billion metric tons of carbon can be stored per year in soil. Farmers can produce higher yields on existing farmland, prevent further loss of fertile land, and find innovative ways to make use of marginal land, especially in developing countries.
Technology is an important part of the solution, but we must also partner to share knowledge. An unprecedented level of global collaboration must take place between farmers, consumers and entrepreneurs, governments and companies, civil society and multilateral organizations. Governments must support resource use efficiency and environmental stewardship, and the private sector must develop new technologies that enable these practices. People should be able to make informed choices about the crops they grow, the products they buy, and the agricultural systems they use. Agriculture should be viewed as a productive investment that drives economic development and builds long-term economic, political and environmental stability.
Success in agriculture hinges on many factors, but farmers worldwide have perhaps one common fear: lack of water. And for good reason. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), agriculture uses about 70 percent of the world’s fresh water and shortage will have a huge impact on food security.
It is imperative that we all make water efficiency a priority if we are to manage water scarcity. Farmers need incentives to implement better water management. They need infrastructure and financial support to explore innovative solutions that produce crops with greater water efficiency.
Worldwide up to 40% of the water used by some farmers is lost due to inefficient practices such as field flooding. A recent study by the 2030 Water Resources Group found that existing agricultural technology can sustainably increase water use efficiency, at reasonable cost and with little investment.
For example, improving soil structure can conserve water. Weed control using herbicides lowers the need for tillage, leaves roots in the soil and improves water absorption. Efficient irrigation systems deliver water to roots and planting grasses around paddocks helps keep water in the soil. In combination, these practices dramatically reduce surface evaporation and water run-off.
Stopping run-off can also ensure agricultural chemicals and soil from paddocks don’t reach rivers and streams.
In addition, we need to broaden our focus to include land productivity and water productivity. We have to get the more crop per drop. Use of drought resistant and water and fertiliser efficient crops and pastures can help produce reliable yields even when water is scarce.
There is no one solution to deal with water scarcity. Investment is needed to develop innovative water-efficient technologies, drought-tolerant seeds, crop protection products and optimized irrigation systems.
But the best solutions can only help when farmers can afford them and understand the advantage of using them. Thus, infrastructure for knowledge sharing and access to technology must be strengthened. Incentives such as access to affordable credit and financial risk-management mechanisms such as insurance for weather-related crop losses will also be critical.
Access to safe water plays a pivotal role in sustainable development and poverty reduction. To positively alter the way the world uses limited water resources, communities need to understand their options for managing water, make better choices, and to take responsibility for them.
With appropriate settings and technologies, projected increases in water demand need not increase pressure on water limited catchments.
Payments for carbon sequestration could be harnessed to reward rural land owners for restoring ecosystems, increasing native habitat by 17% and decreasing extinction risks by 10%, without large additional government outlays.
Non-agricultural water use is projected to increase by 65 to 150% by 2050, while the value of national economic output increases by more than 150%.
While water use is projected to double by 2050, this growth can be met while enhancing urban water security and avoiding increased environmental pressures through increased water recycling, desalination and integrated catchment management.
How sheep and cattle farmers protect their waterways.
Water is a Precious Resource.
Students from Medowie Christian School say only water should go down the storm water drain.
Water use efficiency.
Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative.
Biodiversity can be defined as the functioning of all living things through providing "ecosystem services". Those services are creating clean air, clean water, shelter for food and fibre production and native animals and cultural value. Biodiversity exists in the soil, vegetation supported by the soil, wildlife that access soil, vegetation and habitat.
Biodiversity is in the eye of the beholder. For some it is our life support system, for others it is a resource to be used, for others it is a precious cultural symbol. Australians have long had a sense that our biodiversity is special, but despite our sense of its importance, in many parts of our country biodiversity is in trouble.
Values are the lasting beliefs or ideals that will influence a person’s attitude and which serve as broad guidelines for that person’s behaviour. Understanding biodiversity, and why it matters, is assisted by comprehending the range of distinctive values that individuals and societies may assign to the living world and the ecosystems that it comprises. It is an indication in itself of the complexity of views about biodiversity, and the variety of interactions with it, that at least five separate categories are necessary to cover all possibilities. Source CSIRO Biodiversity: Science and Solutions for Australia
"If all the insects were to disappear from the Earth, within 50 years all life on Earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the Earth, within 50 years all forms of life would flourish."
Our planet is undergoing a biodiversity crisis. Globally, at least 16,000 species are threatened with extinction, including 12 per cent of birds, 23 per cent of mammals and 32 per cent of amphibians.
Biologists know what is causing this environmental crisis — human impacts from development, deforestation, pollution and climate change are destroying the homes and habitat of wildlife around the world.
More importantly, biologists understand that the trend can be reversed.
The greatest threat to biodiversity is the size and rate of growth of human population. Every day, more people need more space, consume more resources and generate more waste as world population continues to grow at an alarming rate.
Human population growth is reducing biodiversity in the following ways:
All forms of food production contribute to a loss of biodiversity to varying degrees, and it is important that impacts on biodiversity are managed effectively. There is no denying that farming practices throughout the 1800s and first half of the 1900s had some detrimental impacts on Australia’s biodiversity. This was mainly due to government-mandated land clearing, in a belief that Australia should be farmed using European methods. Land clearing reduced areas of native vegetation that, coupled with some traditional land management practices, resulted in a decline in biodiversity.
Many ecosystems have been lost during the past 200 years.
Some of these ecosystems include:
Loss of species is a major threat to biodiversity in Australia. Species of animals and plants under threat may be listed in one of the following categories:
Biodiversity Protecting the Environment
Biodiversity & cotton
Resource Smart School
Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative
Renewable energy is energy which can be obtained from natural resources that can be constantly replenished.
Renewable energy technologies include technologies that use—or enable the use of—one or more renewable energy sources. Types of renewable energy technologies include:
Renewable energy technologies also include hybrid and related technologies. For example technologies that:
Rapid improvements in technology and pricing present fresh opportunities to replace polluting energy sources like coal and coal seam gas with energy from the sun, sea and wind. By using energy more wisely and harnessing the power of renewable energy we can create opportunities for new employment and economic growth, foster regional development, and reduce our contribution to global climate change. It is time to make the switch to a clean energy economy by:
Australia has the natural and institutional resources to prosper in almost all scenarios for global energy and resource use.
Global demand for exports is projected to treble by 2050 as global per capita income also trebles. We should expect long term growth of world energy demand, but demand for specific materials and energy exports could vary. Even in scenarios with strong global action to reduce emissions, energy and other resources could remain one of the pillars of the Australian economy, as long as commercially viable technology solutions are developed in a timely fashion to manage environmental impacts.
Domestically, energy affordability can improve, especially when we enhance the efficiency and productivity of the energy system. Transport affordability might also improve, especially through the large-scale adoption of electric vehicles.
Energy is one of the fastest growing costs for farmers, with electricity and diesel accounting for a significant proportion of total farm costs. Energy use efficiency describes the total amount of energy used on farm (in the form of electricity, diesel, or other sources) compared to the amount of production. If energy consumed can be reduced, while production is maintained or increased, energy use efficiency is improved. This may be one of the fastest and easiest ways to improve profitability, and will also reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Research indicates there are significant opportunities to reduce energy - and therefore costs on Australian farms.
It is important for farmers to monitoring their energy use to estimate use and costs, and track these costs over time. An audit can also identify energy and cost savings, such as fuel switching and tariff negotiation.
As well as being a major cost, diesel and electricity are also significant contributors to GHG emissions. So maximising energy efficiency can not only help farmers be more profitable it can also help farming communities be more sustainable.
Renewable energy and farming are a winning combination. Wind, solar, and biomass energy can be harvested forever, providing farmers with a long-term source of income.
Renewable energy can also help reduce pollution, global warming, and dependence on imported fuels.
Farms have long used wind power to pump water and generate electricity. Some large organisations have installed large wind turbines on farms to provide power to electric companies and consumers. Some farmers have also purchased wind turbines; others are starting to form wind power cooperatives.
The amount of energy from the sun that reaches Earth each day is enormous. All the energy stored in Earth's reserves of coal, oil, and natural gas is equal to the energy from only 20 days of sunshine. Most areas of farmland in Australia receive enough sunshine to make solar energy practical. Solar energy can be used in agriculture in a number of ways, saving money, increasing self-reliance, and reducing pollution. Solar energy can cut a farm's electricity and heating bills. Solar water heaters can provide hot water for dairy operations and houses. Photovoltaics (solar electric panels) can power farm operations and remote water pumps, lights, and electric fences. Farm buildings can be renovated to capture natural daylight, instead of using electric lights.
The options that make the most sense for farmers depend on local renewable resources, energy markets, and the types of support available from federal and state government.
Biomass energy is produced from plants and organic wastes—everything from crops, trees, and crop residues to manure. Crops grown for energy could be produced in large quantities, just as food crops are.
Crops and biomass wastes can be converted to energy on the farm or sold to energy companies that produce fuel for cars and tractors and heat and power for homes and businesses.
Farm Case Studies and Renewable energy.
10 Basic Electricity Facts.
Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative.
The Australian textile industry is diverse and has some 680 firms that supply textiles to consumers and other manufacturing sectors. Textile production undergoes many separate processing steps with each step having a potential environmental consequence. One of the many sustainability issues that relate to this large and important industry is textile waste sent to landfill. This issue is a great cost to the industry and the economy. Both the industry and consumers produce textile waste.
Resource Smart School.
Small Steps to Reduce Waste.
Redistributing surplus fresh food.
Save money and our environment.
The Conversation - Food waste article search.
Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative.
There are simple choices and changes we can make in our daily lives that will help us live more sustainably. We need to change the way we live to reduce our over-consuming lifestyles.
Australians consume more of just about everything, per person, than people in other countries. We consume lots of food, paper, timber, metals, energy, water, plastic, glass – you name it, as a nation we consume a lot of it. One way to measure our environmental impact is through an ecological footprint. On a global scale, Australia is a big-foot. We are our very own Yeti of consumption of natural resources.
Over consumption is a significant contributor to global warming and climate change and this consumption is the major cause of Australia’s large footprint. The other cause is our reliance on fossil fuels for everything ranging from the electricity in our homes to the petrol in our cars. Our way of life in Australia is threatening the future of our planet.
We all have a part to play, as we all contribute to our ecological footprint and to global warming. This is where we can work together.
You have the power to change the way you live and reduce Australia’s ecological footprint. One step at a time. Visit here to find out how you can get involved.
Students will investigate and reflect on how they can act to encourage themselves and others to have a healthy lifestyle and value the people behind the food we eat and the clothes we wear.
Social and community health is about building resilient individuals and communities.
Personal health consists of focusing on all aspects of ‘health’:
Emotional / social
Good health is about understanding the balance between what we put into our bodies and what we do with them; it’s about how we deal with the stresses of everyday life; it’s about how we manage our emotions and interact with others.
All aspects of our health are impacted upon by the food we eat, the exercise we undertake and the ways we take care of our mental health. Studies have proven the links between a healthy diet, and efficient and effective brain, physical and psychological functioning.
The Australian Guide To Healthy Eating recommends eating a variety of nutritious foods including vegetables, fruit, grain and lean meat to achieve a balanced healthy diet.
This guide indicates the need to increase the consumption of cereals, legumes, vegetables and fruit, while consuming meat, fish and dairy products in lesser quantities.
Meat is an important source of protein and certain micro-nutrients, including iron, zinc and vitamins and milk is a rich source of protein and calcium. That’s why the Australian Guide recommends two daily serves of milk and dairy products, along with two serves of meat, fish and eggs.
Protein intake is important for a balanced diet, as insufficient protein intake can lead to obesity due to excessive carbohydrate and fat intake to meet energy requirements.
Plant foods – including grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes – are also vital for keeping us healthy. That’s why the Australian Guide To Healthy Eating recommends a higher consumption of plant foods each day, along the lines of seven serves of cereals, five serves of vegetables and legumes, and two serves of fruit. Doing that can reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer, and increase life expectancy.
Regular physical activity is an important contributor to good overall health, including promoting healthy weight and reducing chronic disease risk. However, the physical activity levels of many people, both in Australia and around the world, are less than the optimal level recommended to gain a health benefit. The World Health Organization attributes the trend toward physical inactivity to be due in part to insufficient participation in physical activity during leisure time, (recognised globally as participating in less than 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most days of the week), and to an increase in sedentary behaviour as part of the activities undertaken at work and at home.
The Double Pyramid developed by the Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition in Italy shows the synergies between food that is good for our health and environment.
This model consists of two pyramids: one is the traditional food pyramid like the Australian guide, while the other is an upside-down pyramid ranking the environmental impacts of the same foods. In general, foods at the base of the food pyramid are also those with the lowest environmental impact.
Cereal grain crops are primary producers and have a lower water and carbon footprint.
Legumes such as chickpea and lentil have less than half of the greenhouse emissions of other cereal crops, as they are able to fix nitrogen naturally from the air and do not require any nitrogen fertilisers.
Compared with animal products, emissions from vegetables are lower on a per tonne basis. Most emissions associated with vegetable production come from fertiliser use, electricity use and post-harvest refrigeration and transport.
Even a modest replacement of energy-intensive animal products with less-energy-intensive grains, fruits and vegetables would be significant at the global scale.
Given that fewer than 3% of people in Australia and the UK are vegetarian, it’s unrealistic to suggest a meat-free diet for everyone. It is important to note In Australia and New Zealand, grazing animals are mainly grass-fed rather than grain-fed (more common in the US), which may play an important role in soil carbon sequestration in grasslands, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
If a healthy and sustainable plant-based diet is better for our health and environment, why is it that consumption of plant foods in many developed countries does not meet recommended levels?
In Victoria, for example, fewer than 8% of adults consume the recommended daily intake of five or more serves of vegetables, and fewer than 46% eat the recommended daily intake of two or more serves of fruit.
The recent Australian Health Survey found that one in four adults were eating no vegetables on an average day and only 7% were eating the recommended five servings.
Our current diets cost more than healthy diets, so factors other than price must be helping drive preference for unhealthy choices. These likely include the abundant availability, accessibility, advertising and promotion of junk foods that exploit people’s vulnerabilities. It’s therefore important not to blame victims for responding as expected to unhealthy food environments.
Given the rapidly rising costs to all Australians of our growing waistlines – 25% of us are now obese, one of the highest rates in the world – failing to act is already proving extremely expensive, in both personal and economic terms.
It has been suggested that the government can help by promoting a healthier diet by considering educational and policy measures, such as reinstating the healthy-food star rating systems and restricting junk food promotion.
Before you let total and utter despair get the best of you – we can all work together to break the vicious cycle of rising obesity and ensure nutrition policy actions tackle barriers to healthy eating. Ways to do this include increasing availability of healthy foods and drinks in schools and hospitals and regulating against “junk” food and drink advertising directed to children. Together, these small steps can help shift the whole population to a healthier diet.
These statistics show there is huge room for improvement and opportunities for you as an individual, as a school and as a community to design and deliver idea/s and solutions for action.