To celebrate World Food Day 2020, an annual awareness day for global food security, we spoke to Griffith University’s expert in local food resilience and contingency, Dr Kimberly Reis.
Dr Reis leads Griffith’s Local Food Resilience and Contingency project at the Cities Research Institute.
Her research focuses on enabling urban, rural and regional communities to access locally-based food supplies and share responsibility for their own food resilience in a changing climate.
The research team, with Dr Kimberley Reis, Associate Professor Cheryl Desha and Dr Savindi Caldera, work on developing key connections with community, business and government to build capacity for accessing local food and to thrive in uncertain times.
With the COVID-19 pandemic making the world think twice about food security, shortages and the availability of food in times of crisis, the need for strategic food contingency plans is imperative.
We asked Kimberly a few questions about her research so far…
What is Griffith’s Local Food Resilience and Contingency project?
“Our project aims to build capacities for accessing food produced near to where you work and live. Accessing food locally in preparation for, and during times of uncertainty is practical and prudent. Forward-thinking and planning builds resilience to adversity and gives us options in times of need. It also supports local food economies to be robust and weather the tough times,” she says.
How has COVID-19 affected the local food supply in Australia?
“COVID-19 has exposed our utter reliance on supermarkets for accessing food. The fear of going without food and panic buying has seen supermarket shelves emptied across the world. Even if food is produced in your local region, it is mostly harvested by foreign labour, and is transported to the centralised food markets and then transported back to your local supermarket. The globalised food supply chain functions well as long as the producers, harvesters, distributors, retailers and buyers can interact freely.”
The need for social distancing has interrupted the normal functioning of this model. The Local Food Resilience and Contingency project is about anticipating these kinds of disruptions and devising a Plan B and a Plan C. Contingency planning means accessing more of the food produced in our own regions more directly. As seen in our latest article in The Conversation, there are five ways we can avoid a repeat,” she says.
How does Griffith work with community, business, and government in this project?
“Building resilience to disasters is everyone’s business. We work with local governments, businesses and community groups that want to be proactive and empower others to share responsibility for our food resilience. Our five-step action plan aims to help community, business and government work together to create meaningful solutions to food crisis problems.”
- Action 1: Facilitate shared control and responsibility with those who want it
- Action 2: Facilitate local food procurement policies within neighborhood planning
- Action 3: Utilise policy that consults with and engages the broader community in decision-making
- Action 4: Change the rules and remove the barriers
- Action 5: Disseminate a template of demonstrations to inform council planning and raise awareness of the public
“For more details, please see our call to action,” she says.
What is a remarkable milestone reached in this project over the last few years?
“We have been working with the Cairns Regional Council, Disaster Management Unit on strategic development of local food resilience and contingency plans for the Cairns region. This includes devising resilience building and contingency plans to support the region’s most vulnerable community members to food interruption such as the aged, those with disabilities, the homeless and those where English is not the first spoken language,” Kimberly says.
Is there any sort of research students can get involved in relating to food resilience/security?
“There are a variety of options for students to get involved with our research, including the following….”
- Workplace Integrated Learning (WIL)
- Planning Practicum
- Science Capstone
- Honours Dissertation Research
- Work experience
- Masters Work Integrated Learning (WIL)
- Masters Applied Research Project
- Masters Dissertation Research
- PhD Dissertation Research
Visit the Griffith University website to explore our range of exciting research and study options available.
What’s the next step for this project?
“We are currently mapping the local food bowl of the Logan City growth corridor and developing an online food resilience and contingency dashboard with the Cairns Regional Council,” says Kimberly.
For more details on our project, Visit the Enabling action for local food resilience and contingency website for more information on the project.
If you would like to get involved in this research project, you can contact Kimberly Reis.