YFM (Large)

There are almost five million people aged 29 and under in Australia. That’s a big crowd. If young people banded together for a common cause, they could really shift outdated social norms.

One of the biggest issues in society today is our attitude toward food. And with three-quarters of people aged 25 to 29 years living in capital cities, it would be easy for us whippersnappers to be out of touch with natural local and smart food choices.

But that’s not the case, says Joanna Baker, co-founder of Youth Food Movement (YFM). YFM strives to make young Australians aware of their power as conscious consumers. They build understanding and value for the food we eat. They also aspire to be a collective voice for young Australians, so this group can have a say in the decisions that impact our food future.

Alexandra Iljadica and       Joanna Baker, co-founders of Youth Food Movement
Alexandra Iljadica and Joanna Baker, co-founders of Youth Food Movement

We can judge from the amount of growth in YFM that our young people are passionate about food. Since 2011 their collective voice has grown to over 5,000 people across Sydney, NSW and beyond. “Today, we have YFM ‘sprouts’ popping up across communities across Australia, creating a platform for a national association of engaged young people across the country,” says Joanna.

But it’s knowledge, not just passion, that creates change, and YFM is keen to spread info about smart food choices. Joanna explains that they work to “bring young people together around food and harness the unique ability of Gen Y to connect and inspire our peers to be more considered with their food choices.

“We do this by sharing the stories behind our food and providing young people with opportunities to learn and experience food and farming via unique, engaging and thought-provoking events, campaigns and experiences.”

YFM's 2013 Guerrilla dinner in The Rocks, Sydney
YFM’s 2013 Guerrilla dinner in The Rocks, Sydney
Photo Credit: Zo Zhou

CropFest

Their latest project is CropFest. It’s an event that raises awareness and takes action about the fruit and veg wasted due to popular shopping habits. Joanna explains they’re taking over St Mary’s Cathedral Square in Sydney for the event.

“With the help of our friends Studio Neon, we’re setting up a massive pop-up kitchen, so people can hold, peel, taste and cook this wanted waste of ours – all to the tunes of local musicians. You’ll get a plate of yummy food out of it, but we’re not just cooking food for ourselves. The amazing people at OzHarvest have also come on board to distribute some of the scrumptious fare to local charities and those in need.”

“To join the party, head on over to eventbrite  and pick up your $25 ticket.” Included in the ticket price is a drink on entry, dinner and dessert, access to master classes with chefs, workshops, entertainment and live music by local artists. Your purchase of the CropFest Bundle also includes a donation of 2 meals to OzHarvest.

In the lead up to the big celebration, YFM are also running a photo competition to source, cook and share the most wonky fruit and veg you can find. Let them know how it tastes, where you got it and how it made you feel when you ate it all up! To enter, simply use #YFMCropFest in any photo you share on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and you’re in the running for some amazing prizes.

'Paint me like your french girls'
‘Paint me like your french girls’

So why raise awareness about ‘wonky’ and imperfect food? Because right now as consumers, we only buy one part of what farmers grow: the pretty stuff.

“Each year, countless tonnes of good fruit and veg go to waste simply because it doesn’t look right,” explains Joanna.

“Aussie farmers grow crazy good fruit and veg in all shapes and sizes. The problem is that our current obsession with buying ‘perfect’ produce means that a good portion of that food won’t ever make it to our tables.

“Our shopping habits have created ‘appearance standards’. These are essentially rules about what shape, colour and size our fruit and veg needs to be before it can be sold in shops. Supermarkets set these up because they know that if produce doesn’t look a particular way, people won’t buy it.”

#cropfest
#cropfest

So what’s the impact of these appearance standards?

“In Australia, it is estimated that 20-40 per cent of all fruit and vegetables are rejected due to appearance quality standards. For example, 30 per cent of all bananas grown in Australia are rejected from sale because they don’t match appearance guidelines. That means one in three bananas (100,000 tonnes) goes to waste each year.”

To get the project off the ground, Youth Food Movement was awarded an environmental grant by the City of Sydney.

“It’s so important to have the backing of local government, and their backing has really allowed us to take risks with great benefit for the organisation and the people of Sydney,” says Joanna.

What: CropFest

When: Friday 28 March, 5:30pm

Where: St Mary’s Cathedral Square, Sydney

Cost: $25, get yours here!

Want to know more about YFM?

If you’re passionate about food and want to get involved with YFM, why not follow their movements on Facebook and Twitter? You could also attend one of their events, meet the YFM community and voice your opinion about the future of food and farming. Or become one of their team of volunteers and actively do something for change.

You can also:

  • View their latest film, Sourced. It’s a 12-minute film that reveals the potential of small-scale, local agriculture to strengthen food security and build resilient urban communities;
  • Read up about their Ride on Lunch which is a moveable feast across Sydney that connects young people with local food champions; and
  • Check out their Reel Food Night,  an evening of conversation and film at a pedal-powered, pop-up cinema in a warehouse.

More about all of their projects and events can be found at youthfoodmovement.org.au

Environmental grants are now open

Have your own innovative idea? Why not apply for an environmental grant, like YFM did, to get it off the ground? Round 1 is open now. Applications close at 2pm on 7 April 2014.

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