Tasmania, an island state of Australia situated 240 kilometers from the mainland, faces significant challenges in terms of poverty and food insecurity. With a poverty rate of 17.7%, Tasmania surpasses other Australian states, highlighting the extent of the issue. Alarmingly, 30% of households in Tasmania are marked as food insecure, a figure that is higher than in other states. The COVID-19 pandemic, frequent natural disasters, and rising living costs have all contributed to this situation. These factors have led to one in two Tasmanians experiencing food insecurity, impacting the lives of more than 550,000 residents.
These factors have exhausted local food systems in Tasmania, despite the island being a global choice for fresh, premium food products. In a regional study, the University of Tasmania found that “Quality food is too expensive to afford.” According to the Department of State Growth, Tasmania exports 82% of its food to outside nations or other Australian states.
Due to the island’s temperate maritime climate and biosecurity advantage, Tasmania boasts ideal growing conditions, opening substantial opportunities for local food systems to thrive. With more than a quarter of the land committed to agriculture, Tasmania prospects a robust and viable market for feeding its own. And through additional support, residents could benefit from healthy, nutrient-dense local foods, advancing the island’s food security and independence.
Tasmanian Food Security Council
In partnership with several organizations, the Tasmanian Government has outlined the insecurities of food systems in Tasmania, combining efforts to approach and reinvent the island’s food systems. The “Food Relief to Food Resilience Action Plan” and “Food for all Tasmanians” plans set forth strategies to address the island’s food systems, offering funding and programs to ensure “…every Tasmanian has access to sufficient, quality and nutritious food.” Since the initiatives began in 2018, the Tasmanian Government has committed $9 million toward the delivery of food relief across the State.
In addition, the 2023-2025 plan strengthens the previous budget, adding another $2 million toward “delivering food relief to Tasmanians who need it most, and this is alongside building food resilience for a sustainable future.” The Action Plan involves three main areas of support: sustainable relief, growing systems and building resilience. Through collaborative coalitions between the government, community organizations, and the food relief sector, various proposed and established programs detail the State’s efforts to institute sustainable and resilient food systems.
The school lunch pilot program “School Food Matters” exemplifies the council’s successful pursuit to support food insecure students, having committed an additional $400,000 to the $1.87 million. With the support of the Tasmanian Government, the program assists “school communities to promote and provide a school food service that is nutritious, affordable, safe and where possible, locally sourced and prepared by the school.” In the 2022 school year, the program provided 78,832 lunches, serving more than 1,600 students with healthy, nutritious lunches, according to a 2023 report. The program continues to develop and grow, relying on local food systems in Tasmania to ensure every student eats lunch.
Eat Well Tasmania
Eat Well Tasmania is a nonprofit organization working alongside the Tasmanian Government to build a sustainable and resilient food system through creative campaigns, advocacy and robust research. The organization champions local procurement as the principal solution, transitioning the State to be more self-reliant on its own food, which could inadvertently protect the island State against future threats or disasters.
Localizing food systems eliminates the island’s dependency on outside imports, improving food security by increasing access to local, healthy food. Studies also show that “every $1 million invested in buying Tasmanian-produced food could create up to $3 million of economic activity in Tasmania.” Pivoting to locally grown and produced food generates jobs while better equipping local communities to cope with future challenges.
In combination with the Tasmanian Government’s efforts and collaboration with local organizations, support for local food systems in Tasmania blossoms and aids positive food environments. Such measures and programs promote food grown and processed regionally, thus minimizing the transport distance and sustaining a local economy that provides a market for food to sell where it is grown. As the State continues to prioritize and invest in its food systems, Tasmanians could garner greater access to affordable local food that is nutrient-dense, thereby creating a positive economic impact and building resourcefulness and resilience in local communities.
– Emmalyn Meyer