Food connecting community

By Shepparton News

By Siobhan Mckenna

Melbourne born and bred, I fit every city stereotype loud and proud.

I take pride in being fully immersed in coffee culture and the foodie frenzy that has taken over the city, but despite a fixation with food, eating local never occurred to me until it became a trend.

The new country of origin label requirements that came into effect on July 1 had me thinking.

It is not just about supporting Australian farmers and industry; it is about us city slickers finding a connection to community through food.

During the past years my morning commute through the suburbs of Melbourne has changed.

These days I pass nature strips lined with freshly planted vegie gardens, fruit trees with ‘‘help yourself’’ signs and chickens chattering in backyards.

Local produce from the hobby garden even has its appeal to the university student in me looking for a cheap food fix and good conversation starter at the dinner table.

Being food conscious is on trend and I think it has everything to do with the lack of connection today’s society feels to their community.

In Shepparton, local produce is a way of life.

Situated in the heart of Australia’s food bowl, it is a haven of fresh fruit and vegetables that can be paraded in supermarkets and café fronts.

It provides a wealth of benefits to local farmers and business, but also a connection to the food we eat and the people that grow it.

This goes to show preferring locally grown food is nothing new, Melbourne and the rest of the nation have just been slow to catch on.

On the other end of the freeway, the ‘‘where did my food come from’’ trend has begun to filter into the inner city cafes of Melbourne, fuelling the conversation about food mileage and local growers.

The food menus of today mimic the format of the traditional wine list, with the place of origin clearly marked on the product.

From the 250g grass-fed Gippsland porterhouse steak served up at my local pub to the sprinkle of Meredith goats feta on my smashed avocado, everyone wants to imagine their meal on the map.

In the city, this new phenomenon has been coined ‘‘re-localisation’’; it is a term touted by inner city community growers.

Everyone wants to live and buy local, re-localisation is the new Melbourne version of the Australian dream.

Country of origin labels offering consumers a new way to connect with their food, and re-instilling city slickers with a sense of community and connection to their food in this increasingly globalised world.

Food mileage is another big reason for the change in attitude towards local food, with consumers wanting to decrease their environmental impact and lighten a load from their consciences.

Even the recent listeria scares from frozen vegetables have added weight to the Australian made debate.

Boosting the profitability of Australia’s farmers and produce industries is another wholesome cause, but more intrinsically buying local foods builds a sense of community that modern life and the hustle and bustle of the big city lacks.

Country folk had it right all along, locally grown food is better.

Siobhan Mckenna is a journalism postgraduate student at RMIT on a two-week internship at The News.