Opinion

A Healthy and Sustainable Food Policy for The University of Sydney

A healthy and sustainable food policy would demonstrate The University of Sydney ’s commitment to creating “a place where the best researchers and most promising students can achieve their full potential.”

On Wednesday 26 April 2017, Sinead Boylan will be speaking at Cultivating our Campus (register here), the first lecture in the Food [at] Sydney Seminar Series, co-hosted by SEI and Sydney Ideas. Sinead and panel will provide insight into how we can build a healthier and sustainable food system on campus.

Sinead, along with Becky Freeman and PhD Candidate Alexandra Jones have recently been granted seed funding by Healthy Sydney University, for the development of a healthy and sustainable food policy for The University of Sydney. In the blog below, Sinead discusses the project and highlights the need for a healthy and sustainable food policy.


Our overconsumption of energy is destroying population and planetary health at an unprecedented rate. For example, our food environment is swamped by promotion and availability of energy-dense nutrient poor foods and beverages. The consumption of these products is not only associated with serious and life-threatening illnesses, but the heavy processing, long-distance distribution, and packaging of these products use a considerable amount of planetary resources. Our current trajectory is not environmentally or socially sustainable.

The University of Sydney is well placed to demonstrate leadership in living life to our full potential. In fact, the fundamental tenet of the University of Sydney strategy is “to create a place where the best researchers and most promising students can achieve their full potential.” To achieve this, the environment they spend much of their time in must promote and support a healthy lifestyle. While the Eat Better Group has supported some great strategies to support such an environment, The University of Sydney lacks an overarching policy which would support a healthy and sustainable food environment for staff and students.

The development of a food policy which covers the entire food system – production, processing, distribution, marketing, and consumption is a challenging, yet a necessary task. The development of a healthy and sustainable food policy for The University of Sydney is a task taken up in the new project to be undertaken by PhD candidate, Amanda Grech and myself. Our project will begin by focusing on components of this system which need urgent addressing – sustainability.

Sydney is fortunate to be surrounded by a rich agricultural food bowl within a 100km radius of its campuses. By sourcing fresh food locally, The University of Sydney would not only be promoting sustainable food sourcing practice and the health of students and staff but also be fostering university-community relations and supporting the livelihoods of our local food producers.

The importance of recognizing strategies to promote a sustainable and healthy diet is voiced internationally and endorsed by the Food and Agricultural Organisation. France is leading the way with current national food legislation ensuring that institutions source at least 40% of their food from local areas (30km radius for fruit and vegetables and 100km radius for foods which require processing). However, strategies not only exist at a national level but institutional level with universities in the US and Finland adopting policies to take responsibility for the food that is provided at their campuses. Closer to home, The University of Melbourne has developed A Fair Food Challenge. The policy we are developing will take a similar approach with health at its core. The development of a healthy and sustainable food policy would demonstrate The University of Sydney ’s commitment to creating “a place where the best researchers and most promising students can achieve their full potential.” It is hoped that other Universities in Australia and other countries will follow suit.

Cultivating our Campus is the first lecture in the 2017 Food [at] Sydney Seminar Series, co-hosted by SEI and Sydney Ideas.

When: Wednesday 26 April 2017

Time: 5.00 – 6.30PM

Where: New Law Lt 106, New Law School Eastern Avenue, The University of Sydney.

For more information on Cultivating our Campus, and to register, click here.


Sinead Boylan is a public health nutritionist at the Prevention Research Collaboration, Charles Perkins Centre. Sinead’s interest and experience in the relationship between our food environment and health are exemplified by her co-ordination of, and the lecturing in, the Masters in Sustainability Health and Populations Unit and her ability to attract funding to investigate strategies to promote a healthy and sustainable diet.

Top Image: Unsplash, CC0 License – Pexels