Food system policy making and innovation at the local level: Exploring the response of Australian local governments to critical food systems issues

Publication Name

Health Promotion Journal of Australia


Issues addressed: Urgent action is required by all levels of government to create a food system capable of nourishing a rapidly growing population while remaining within planetary boundaries. This study investigated policies and programs implemented by Australian local governments (LGs) that aim to contribute to a healthy, sustainable and equitable food system. Methods: An online survey was completed by LGs (n = 64) in New South Wales and Victoria, Australia. Questions focused on LGs' food system-related policies and programs, barriers to and enablers of engaging in food system work and organisational responsibilities for food system work. Results: Preventing food waste, organising food-related social/cultural events and providing potable water were the most commonly reported activities. Few LGs reported policies/activities on market gardening or sustainable agricultural practices, or strengthening food system resilience. LGs implemented a wide range of initiatives, such as hosting food forums, using research to identify and address food access issues and providing healthy food and drink options within LG-owned/managed facilities. Enablers of food system work included internal LG support, human resources, external funding and partnerships. Barriers included lack of community interest, short-term and/or project-based funding, internal governance issues and restrictive state government planning frameworks. Conclusion: Australian LGs undertake a wide range of actions addressing diverse food system issues; however, internal and external barriers constrain their involvement in creating a healthy, sustainable and equitable food system. So what?: Legislative reform, combined with increased financial and human resource capacity, would support LGs to expand, strengthen and sustain their food system work.

Open Access Status

This publication may be available as open access

Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

Australian Research Council



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