Spilling the beans on campus food

What do you get when you take a dozen university students, a whole lot of post-it notes, colourful textas, and add some great conversation? A melting pot of fantastic ideas on how we can make our campus food environment a fairer, healthier and more sustainable place.

 Public health and medicine students sharing ideas.

Public health and medicine students sharing ideas.

This year Fair Food Challenge is running a series of policy lunches called “Spill the Beans”. We bring together students from the same area of study over a delicious seasonal and locally sourced lunch to discuss their visions for a fair food university. The ideas generated at these lunches is adding to the considerable database of community input that we have been gathering since 2016. This feedback is also being fed into the construction of the New Student Precinct (NSP), a major building project where one of the final design principles is to ‘create opportunities to buy or prepare food that is healthy, fair and sustainable’.

 Fair Food Challenge provides a delicious seasonal, locally sourced lunch catering to different dietary needs including vegan and Halal diets

Fair Food Challenge provides a delicious seasonal, locally sourced lunch catering to different dietary needs including vegan and Halal diets

Our first lunch saw design and environment students brainstorm some wonderful ideas at Mon-Pop, a new pop-up site on campus filled with plants and rotating art installations. In the sunny outdoors, students came up with creative proposals including food festivals, having a fresh produce grocer on campus and establishing more green spaces to sit and enjoy food. We were also very lucky to have Linh Do of the Climate Reality Project to catalyse the discussion with her work in social change movements.

 Environment and design students brainstorming dozens of ideas for the future of food on campus.

Environment and design students brainstorming dozens of ideas for the future of food on campus.

We held our second lunch in the delightful surrounds of the Melbourne University Food Co-op due to the arrival of wet and windy autumn. The Co-op serves delectable hot lunches Wednesday-Friday and supports local, sustainable and packaging free suppliers, so we thought it was a pretty perfect location for our event! We heard from engineering and science students who had great ideas like creating a system for distributing leftover food at the end of the day to integrating meditation and yoga with breakfast and dinner served on campus. Our special guest Dr Seona Candy spoke about her work on projects looking at Low Carbon Living as an inspiring example of how designing new spaces with multiple stakeholders can work.

 Spill the Beans lunches bring together students from different backgrounds and degrees to share a lunch together and to discuss new visions for the university.

Spill the Beans lunches bring together students from different backgrounds and degrees to share a lunch together and to discuss new visions for the university.

Our final lunch for Semester 1 brought together health and medical students to share their ideas for a fairer, and healthier university. We were joined by very special guests Professor Rob Moodie, former CEO of VicHealth and current WHO advisor and Public Health academic, and Jane Martin of the Obesity Policy Coalition and Cancer Council Victoria as well as University of Melbourne Health Promotion Program Officer Rebecca Meldrum. Our participants had some really amazing ideas including healthier vending machines, providing kitchens for students to cook together and making it easier for students to access fresh, healthy food on campus.

 Jane Martin, Executive Manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition, talks to students about the importance of having good, affordable and healthy food widely available on campus.

Jane Martin, Executive Manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition, talks to students about the importance of having good, affordable and healthy food widely available on campus.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be posting about some of the ideas that have emerged from these sessions and how they might fit within a fair food university so keep your eyes peeled.

Next semester will see even more students and ideas collide - if you’re a current student with a great idea and you’d like to be a part of this process, register your interest on our Spill the Beans page.


This program is funded by the University of Melbourne’s Student Engagement Grant program and we thank them for their support.