VicHealth Food for All Program

Melbourne , Australia

Five year Food for All program involved nine Victorian Municipalities taking a lead to address food insecurity.

VicHealth’s five-year Food for All (FFA) Program involved nine Victorian municipalities taking a lead in addressing Food insecurity by improving access to healthy Food for people living in disadvantaged communities. These councils have developed practical and long-lasting strategies to tackle the problem of Food insecurity and help residents access a variety of nutritious Foods, including fruit and vegetables. 
 
Food for all program had a positive, significant impact on local councils' awareness, operations and strategic direction around food security. It also provided valuable insights into the factors that help or hinder food security promotion through local governments.
 

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City information
City
Melbourne

Size and population development
2011: 3,961,000; 1990: 3,117,000; 2025: 4,962,000; 2010-2015: +1.71%/year

Population composition
world's 3rd largest Greek speaking population (city level), very diverse ethnic composition

Main functions
Capital City of the state of Victoria, leading financial centre in Australia, renowned for performing and visual arts; Melbourne is among the most livable cities in the world according to the Economist Intelligence Unit and also one of the most expensive cities.

Main industries / business
highly diversified; finance, manufacturing, IT, research, tourism

Political structure
governance of Melbourne is divided between the government of Victoria and the 26 cities and five shires that make up the metropolitan area; local councils

Administrative structure
31 local government areas or municipalities, hundreds of suburbs; 54 electoral districts, 23 divisions (national and regional elections etc.)

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Background and objectives

In June 2005 VicHealth funded eight food security projects in nine local government areas to work in partnership with local organisations, including community health services, to promote food security. Two projects were located in regional Victoria.

A key strategy of Food for All was to encourage local government to improve integrated planning to address factors that influence access to food, such as transport, housing, economic development, urban planning and land use. This approach was consistent with VicHealth’s emphasis on addressing the determinants of health that lie within the four environments: built, natural, social and economic.

The goals of the Food For All program:

  • reduce local government system barriers and local infrastructure barriers to food security 
  • increase regular access to and consumption of a variety of foods, in particular fruit and vegetables, by people living in disadvantaged communities.
Objectives of the Food For All program: 
  • increase incorporation of food security and related issues into council integrated planning around policy, strategy and actions
  • develop leadership and partnerships with community agencies to implement food security strategies that reduce barriers to food security
  • initiate and support advocacy to reduce barriers to access and consumption of healthy food.

The program objectives were modified for the second phase (2008 to 2010), to encourage greater emphasis on influencing local government policy, planning and practice across the four environments for health (built, natural, economic and social) and in particular bringing health and urban planning closer together

Implementation

The Food for All Program has involved action by local government on many fronts:

  • enabling residents to identify local sources of fresh fruit and vegetables at affordable prices
  • ensuring that those in poor-quality housing have access to food storage and cooking facilities
  • improving Food and cooking knowledge and skills among disadvantaged groups
  • improving transport options for those without a car
  • increasing community awareness of the problem of Food insecurity.

This program was sited in local government, with eight projects being funded in nine local government areas. One project was undertaken between two councils.

 

Financing and resources

VicHealth funded nine councils to reduce the local infrastructure barriers to food security.

Results and impacts

Food for all program had a positive, significant impact on local councils' awareness, operations and strategic direction around food security. It also provided valuable insights into the factors that help or hinder food security promotion through local governments.

The FFA program successfully identified infrastructure (and other) barriers to food security affecting disadvantaged groups.
 
Some of the FFA project strategies helped reduce infrastructure barriers. For example, the setting up of markets and stalls selling affordable fruit and vegetables to people living in disadvantaged areas helped to ease the economic barriers facing families on a low income. Providing community transport to fresh food outlets, and advocating easy access to fresh food outlets to state government and transport companies, helped reduce transport barriers in some municipalities. Changes in open space planning and local regulations, while slow, supported local food production including community gardens, which helped to address economic, social and cultural barriers. 
 
FFA projects data provided evidence that healthy eating and food supply strategies did result in increased awareness, knowledge, food skills and intention to implement new knowledge. 
Lessons learned and transferability

Local data and a detailed local evidence base are vital ingredients in local government taking up food security. 

Consistency, continuity and commitment of staff at both project and management levels clearly make a difference. When there is no one with the capacity to keep the pressure up on food security, action tends to falter. 
 
Councils operating in a contracting economic climate or with a focus on debt management tend to have limited take-up of a food security focus
 
Councils with a culture of cross-council communication and well developed systems that support integrated planning are more likely to develop a wide array of initiatives across portfolios.
 
A common planning cycle across all Victorian local governments creates more opportunities for inclusion of food security into policy. 
 
The most effective FFA community strategies were made up of a combination of interrelated approaches. For example, the best food production initiatives included practical gardening education and support, advocacy to council regarding open space and water use, the value of gardening in terms of recycling and waste management, health and wellbeing, and providing examples of how local government could amend planning and policy to support local food production. 
References

- Donovan, J, Larsen, K, McWhinnie, JA, 2011, 'Food-Sensitive Planning and Urban Design,' Heart Foundation, David Lock Associates, University of Melbourne

- 2011, 'Food for All 2005–10 Program evaluation report,' VicHealth, Date accessed 19/6/15