Food Accessibility & its Effects Within Marrickville
At a Glance
In contemporary Australia, one in six Australians experience food insecurity (fig 1.), where individuals are forced to seek food relief from charities. The irony is that over 5 million tonnes of food waste ends up in landfills in Australia every year. Food security depends on the availability to food, access to food and utilization of food (FAO, 2000) and is an increasing issue within Australia (Ireland, 2019) as drought, the rising cost of living and low level of Newstart and the pension, all being factors that fuel this increase. As the food is a foundational currency that we use to measure the state of our society and our lives (Osman et. al. 2006), this social justice issue must be addressed as a social and political problem.
fig 3. 25% able to focus
fig 4. 33% improved mental health
fig 5. 39% feeling less hungry
fig 6. 33% had to pay rent mortage
fig 7. 36% living on a low income or pension
fig 8. 44% unexpected bill or expense
fig 1. One in six Australians experience food insecurity
fig 2. Half of NSW & ACT pop. access food banks every month
Marrickville is one of the most cosmopolitan suburbs, with a population of 26,000 people and over 50 different ethnic backgrounds (Visit Sydney Australia, 2019). Due to gradual gentrification in the inner west of Sydney, Marrickville has a mix of residential, commercial and industrial areas, seeing a diverse community make up, with many minority groups. With diversity comes different levels of income, employment rates, and accessibility to health services and education. Due to these issues, it is integral that individuals and families have access to affordable and accessible food and produce.
The site includes the area surrounding Addison Road as the ‘fresh food and produces hub’ of Marrickville (Addison Road Community Organisation, 2019). This area has boundaries of Addison Road, Illawarra Road, Charles Street, and Gordon Lane and includes major community spaces like the Addison Road Community Garden, Addison Road Community Centre and The Ethnic Community Services Cooperative.
As one in six Australians experience food insecurity, many people are left hungry. A 2010 report by the Prime Minister's Science Engineering and Innovation Council stated that ‘Australia is food secure and produces enough food today to feed approximately 60 million people’ (PMSEIC 2010, p. 1). However, maintaining this level of food security depends on emerging challenges such as climate variability, loss of productive land in urban areas, soil fertility decline, increasing reliance on production inputs, slowing of productivity growth in agriculture, poor nutrition intake in some social sectors and conflict in the region. (Joanne Millar).
Since 2010 Australia has seen the effects of climate change that was predicted in 2007 but experts, suggesting that fire seasons will star earlier, end slightly later, and generally be more intense. This effect will increase over time but should be directly observable by 2020. (Ross Garnaut).
With thousands of farmland burnt (Honan & Webster, 2019) (Hatch, 2020) coupled with the urban sprawl into prime agricultural land with reliable rainfall along Australia's coastline (Bunker and Houston 2003, Burnley and Murphy 2004, Gibson et al. 2005) (Joanne Millar) and increasing drought in land that is used for agriculture.
With the destruction of rural environments and as an increasing conflict of rights to land rise due to the disparity of class wealth causing housing inequality, particularly in the inner cities
(fig .10 - 13). The Australian population will require a cultural shift as new systems of sustainable and social justice are built around food accessibility.
fig 9a. Map of Australian land that has been burnt
fig 9b. Map of Australian land used for agriculture (enlarge)
29.9% being purchased
27% being purchased
32.3% being purchased
34.5% being purchased
fig 10. tenure type 2011 marrickville
fig 11. tenure type 2016 marrickville
fig 12. tenure type 2016 NSW
fig 13. tenure type 2016 AUS
What is Being Done
The Addison Road Community Centre Organisation is an independent not-for-profit fighting for social justice that spans over a nine-acre heritage site in Marrickville and was established in 1976. (Addison Road Community Centre, 2019) They have initiatives including community gardens and affordable food grocers that aim to reduce urban poverty by enabling everyone to have access to alternative food sources, reducing their vulnerability to temporary food shortages. With over half of the Australian population living in cities, urban agriculture may have significant implications for rethinking conventional approaches to agrifood systems. (Dixon et al. 2009)
The Addison Road Community Garden is always open for the public to use. It aims to provide food production and sustainable community initiatives by providing opportunities to grow food, share knowledge, interact with the community and encourage eco-living, waste reduction and healthy eating (Addison Road Community Centre).
The Addison Road Food Pantry is a low-cost affordable grocer that rescues food from being thrown into landfill and passes them on at affordable rates to the community. Their mission is to rescue food and fight hunger and they are saving 1 tonne of food every week. (Addison Road Community Centre).
Addison Road launched the street food markets to give a platform and space to asylum seekers living in the Inner West to share their culture from back home and to help them become financially independent (Addison Road Community Centre).
Return and Earn
Launched in 2017, Return & Earn container deposit system on site encourages and helps the community to dispose of used bottles, cans and glasses and earn a small refund or a donation to a listed charity (Addison Road Community Centre).
Through our findings and research, it is evident that active communities are more resilient (Okvat et al. 2011) as gardening and having direct access to fresh produce assists in stabilising climate change via greenhouse gases, urban lifestyle changes and education (Okvat et al. 2011). Communities become less reliant on imported food which can minimise waste and over-production (Harris 2009). Through taking place in these community initiatives, not only do people have access to affordable food, but they also establish a sense of community involvement and inclusion whilst undertaking a healthy activity.
Some major setbacks that we found through observation and research included the physical accessibility to the site including the state of roads and footpaths as well as signage which is shown in the map below. The visibility also poses a potential problem as it is difficult to find which may appear exclusionary towards the wider community (Schmelzkopf 1996). Conflicts over ownership may also rise as who should grow what where and whom it belongs to (Okvat et al. 2011). Climate factors including drought, rainfall, soil loss, storm or spread of pests are also a major factor (Dixon et al. 2009).
ADDISON RD COMMUNITY GARDEN
RETURN & EARN
If space is generated as a community space for the people, it must aim to include all people through many different accessible means. Everyone has a right to use public space and thus must be designed appropriately. Whilst the majority of built environment around the community centre was generally accessible with open and easy to traverse paths, the gardens did lack in accessible use - the entrance was wide with two raised garden beds on either side, making it the most accessible part of the garden. Despite this, the terrain of the garden and informality of plot and path arrangement has made the rest of the garden difficult to use. The undulating landscape with bare soil and rock to step on coupled with narrow paths, allowing room for one person to pass at a time further the sites inaccessibility. The plots are un-encompassed by barriers, however, they are low lying and situated one after another hindering access, as movement to not trod over plants is difficult.
Whilst we do not believe that the garden sought to discriminate, for urban agriculture to be a means to quash maldistribution and food insecurity gardens will need to broaden their scope of potential user base when designing and organising their gardens.
On the other hand, the built environment around the community centre has planned accordingly to accessible use. With places such as the food pantry and the food markets, able to bridge a maldistribution gap. The food pantry is a single storey business that is directly accessible from the road, with light level change. The food markets are situated on the road, making it directly accessible from the entrance and car parking spaces provided.
Right to Food = Right to The City
Through our research and findings, it is evident that the current initiatives in practice are a good stepping stone for a wider practice of establishing food security for the community, however it is not developed enough or at a scale that can provide for a community in crisis. The Addison Road community garden and food pantry are both open public spaces that are accessible by everyone, providing accommodating and inclusive beliefs that allow the people of Marrickville a secure and reliable source of food. Whilst this continues to bring about positive change, aspects such as effects of climate change and worsening food insecurity have caused an increased demand which calls for the reassessing and planning of these precincts. Elements that can be improved include physical accessibility, the planning of the gardens, climate change action plan and making the overall site more visible both physically and digitally to increase community involvement.
While backyard farming is often seen as a household complementary food security strategy, the cultivation of open space by groups of urban dwellers can be conceptualised as a practice that claims their right to the city (Graham et al. 2006). These food accessibility initiatives present a promising method of enhancing the well‐being, and furthering the resilience of individuals, communities, and the natural environment as the well being of humanity is inextricably linked to the well being of the Earth. Community gardens and low-cost food pantries are evidently helping those in the community who are in need, however for this to effect Australia on a larger more long-term scale, these initiatives need to be funded and expanded on, as only 37 percent of charities said they are able to meet the full needs of the people they are helping (Ireland, 2019).
Anastasija Kukić | Ma Architecture
As a student of architecture, majoring in social agency and justice issues, I have skills that help critically analyse human designs and their relation to people, place and the environment. This was helpful in analysing differing sites' interactions with one another to investigate how socially sustainable current methods of food distribution are.
Emily Collins | Ba Computational Design
As a computational design student, I have knowledge that covers areas in planning, architecture, social justice, and smart city initiatives. This was particularly helpful in understanding our social justice issue and how it could be fully explored through extensive research and mapping.
Yujia Yang | Ma Urban Planning
As an urban planning student, I have the knowledge relates to planning and designing a city or area, social justice, environment etc. My skills and experiences of mapping and researching could help with collecting and analyzing data and information, and present data by drawing a specific map with Auto CAD.
Sahaja Muppidi | Ma City Analytics
Expert understanding of GIS and proficiency in using various mapping applications and software, my knowledge is contributed to performing spatial analysis of the social justice aspect and presenting the results graphically through ESRI Story Maps with some of the maps created on Google Mapping tool. It includes providing assistance to the team with insights from other spatial analysis performed on various software.
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fig 1. Addison Road Community Centre, Available: (Online): https://addiroad.org.au/
fig 2,3,4,5,6,7,8. Mark Mordue, 2019, "Feed the People", Available: (Online): https://addiroad.org.au/news/feed-the-people/
fig 9b. ABARES, 2019, "Catchment scale land use of Australia - Update December 2018" Available: (Online): https://www.agriculture.gov.au/abares/aclump/land-use/catchment-scale-land-use-of-australia-update-december-2018
fig 10. ABS, 2011, "2011 Census QuickStats: Marrickville" Available: https://quickstats.censusdata.abs.gov.au/census_services/getproduct/census/2016/quickstat/SSC12504?opendocument
fig11,12.13. ABS, 2016, "2016 Census QuickStats: Marrickville" Available: (Online): https://quickstats.censusdata.abs.gov.au/census_services/getproduct/census/2016/quickstat/11702
Ross Garnaut, 2007, "The Garnaut Climate Change Review"