Community Engaged Research

Sustain (as the Food Alliance) has been involved in groundbreaking research over the past couple of years, namely:

  • Creating a unique set of resources for several peri-urban local governments to highlight the key role these regions play in feeding Melbourne, through the crowd-funded Know Your Foodbowl research
  • Partnering with the Victorian EcoInnovation Lab and the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation in Foodprint Melbourne, an Australia-first piece of research that investigates where Melbourne’s food currently comes from and the potential to source more of its food from within Victoria, and the economic benefits that would flow as a result (first results released in November 2015, with the final report due in November 2016)

In 2015 Sustain worked with Masters and Honours students at the University of Melbourne and RMIT University, together with diverse local government, community health, producer, community groups and other food system stakeholders, on the following pieces of practically-oriented research:

  • Investigating the development of an urban agriculture strategy in the City of Moreland – interviews with Council stakeholders as well as community health workers and representatives of community organisations. The aim of this research was to explore the expectations of different stakeholders involved in the development of the strategy, and to what extent those expectations were met as the process was implemented, in order to share lessons with other local governments about effective engagement strategies
  • Investigating the feasibility of adapting the ‘Real Food Calculator’ in the Australian context, in order to support the development of the ‘Fair Food Challenge’ campaign initiated by the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance in collaboration with students at the University of Melbourne and RMIT University. The aim of the Fair Food Challenge is to work with Universities and other higher education institutions to adopt healthy, sustainable and fair food policies, in order to source more local, sustainable and ethical produce, and make this produce more widely available to their student populations.


Building on the review of the development of a community food production strategy at the City of Moreland, Sustain is working with a Masters of Agricultural Science student at the University of Moreland to review the current state of urban agriculture policy and practice at the municipal level in a number of leading local governments in and around Melbourne. This research will be published and presented at an inaugural Urban Agriculture Conference, to be held in the third quarter of 2016.

Sustain is also supervising a research project being undertaken by two Masters students at Melbourne University, which is a ‘Local Food Economy Pilot study’ for the City of Greater Bendigo. This research is being conducted in collaboration with the City of Greater Bendigo and members of the recently-formed Bendigo Regional Food Alliance. The aim of the research is to document the connections and economic benefits of local food exchanges in the Bendigo region, in order to make the case for greater support for and investment in local food economies.


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