In November 2016 our co-founder Alex Iljadica was invited to be a keynote speaker at University of Sydney’s Food Governance conference. It was a multi day conversation on the role of law, regulation and policy in meeting 21st century challenges to the food supply.

For the many who couldn’t attend, here’s a shortened version of what she had to say on the importance of human centred design in policy making (aka keeping it real).

Thank you for inviting me here today. In case you haven’t met someone from the Youth Food Movement, there is a small army of us circling the conference! We joked earlier in the week that this conference was like a mini reunion, as our volunteers are spread across the country and so many decided to come to Sydney to join what has been a refreshing conversation. And I wanted to take a moment to thank Corinna for being so articulate, and the other speakers of the conference. As an organisation, the Youth Food Movement spends the majority of our time coming up with projects to tackle issues we each care so much about. So it is nice to come somewhere and have our approaches and ways of thinking validated and affirmed. I wanted to share this on behalf of all of the YFMers who had mentioned this to me.

I’m delighted to share what has been my lived experience of the challenges you mentioned this morning.

One of the problems of governance as I heard it is the lack of human centred design taking place in policy making, decision making and policy implementation.

This challenge plays out very clearly in the way food waste messages are created and often how they don’t take into consideration the languages used by young people, or the lifestyles we lead and how food waste is a part of it.

We know that young people are the biggest contributors to food waste, and yes we’ve been surveyed to know the reasons why we waste food. E.g We go to the shops, planning to make things from scratch because it’s the right thing to do, then we get a call from our friend at 5pm and decide to go with them to trivia at the pub instead.

We’re also the biggest wasters because when you leave home, or even when your mum stops cooking for you, you’re learning a bunch of new things you’ve never learnt before. What flavours go together. How long to cook pasta for. So of course we’re going to get it wrong most of the time, until we turn say 30 get a mortgage and realise that it’s now way too expensive to eat any other way.

In all of our projects we spend as much of our time planning the logistics of an event as we do consulting with our community about what their needs are, what they think is cool, and what they’re already doing about an issue like food waste.

And this is where I think governments go a little off track. They do a little bit of research to find out what is the cause of the issue, why young people waste the most food, and then proceed to decide how young people should be behaving to reduce their food waste. Instead, what we have found works best, is to ask people who care and those who don’t, what they currently do about food waste. Then take this and morph it into something enticing for others to hear about and do in their life too.

The government currently recommends that meal planning and writing shopping lists is a good way to reduce food waste. For us it’s not about trying to make shopping lists the new cool thing to do. Or coming up with a new word for shopping lists. It’s about recognising that young people don’t always use shopping lists for a reason. No matter how loud or cool or widespread or repeated the government makes their ‘write a shopping list’ campaigns, if it doesn’t exist within young people’s current lifestyles they just aren’t going to hear it.

Looking for advice on food waste that keeps it real? Hit up our SpoonLed campaign.

Image credit: Amanda Sacks at Cropfest


Alexandra Iljadica