At least twice a month I’ll get asked why I started Youth Food Movement Australia (YFM) four years ago.  I thought I’d post  the answer where it can live permanently on the internet, so that when the moment strikes again, I can bitly this URL and send it to them immediately ! *Jokes*

I’m joking because it’s a bit rude, but I’m also joking because it would deprive me and the person I’m chatting with of having the opportunity to meaningfully talk about ‘purpose’. Purpose in life. Purpose at work. Purpose on the weekend. Purpose whenevs and wherevs.

In short, I started YFM because it’s my purpose. Simple as that.

There is a very real yet intangible seed inside my mind and heart that draws me to food and the complex, strangely beautiful, systems we have set up in order to feed ourselves. This is the first of three reasons why I started YFM.

Back in 2010, I was at the University of Wollongong completing my Bachelor of Science (Nutrition). I was learning the ins and outs of what happened to food once it entered your mouth. I’m talking the molecular structure of omega-3’s and omega-6’s; how they’re processed and what affect they have on your blood; on your mental health; on the baby growing inside you. I vividly remember the day during my Food Innovation and Technology lecture where the lovely Anne McMahon, showcasing the best in food technology, explained that Pringles were a completely man-made food and were not made using some kind of cool potato slicer. My mind was blown! And while this was super interesting, it didn’t satisfy my need to have a greater understanding of ‘food’ and how it came to be on my plate in the form it was in.

That moment led to the second reason I started YFM. My brain was bursting with so many questions. How does all the food available at the supermarket even get to the shelves with precision each day? What do you mean, oranges grown on the other side of the world are cheaper than ones grown in Australia? And, why are we telling everyone to eat two pieces of fruit and five serves of vegetables each day if we don’t even produce enough to meet these guidelines?

Yet, none of my questions were answered by lecturers, tutors or friends at uni. So I Googled the shit out of every food term I could think of. I also started volunteering with the Sydney Food Fairness Alliance, a group of amazing women and men who seem to know all things food. During this time, I liken my mind to a thirsty sponge absorbing all I could while it was being thrown at me.

But, ever the impatient doer, I was itching to do something with all this knowledge. I was passionate dammit, and needed to get out there to start tackling some of the Australian specific problems I was spending almost every waking minute thinking about. Yeah, I was a bit obsessed – I still am. When it came to the doing, we did the usual thing most community organisations do: we had stalls at festivals, we held talks and panel discussions, and we wrote government submissions. But I soon noticed that not many people my age came to the events we were at. There needed to be another way to reach, involve and inspire them.

This is the third  reason for YFM. Not only did I want to create something that my friends and family would want to  join, I wanted the voices  of Australia’s youth on food to be heard and taken more seriously. After all, in the not too distant future, I’m talking like 5 – 10 years, we’re going to be responsible for feeding the rest of the country (and others in the region). We’re already becoming the chefs, the growers, the butchers and bakers, the policy makers and the community workers that are reshaping the food system. I genuinely believe that any conversation about the future of food – whether its national or global – that doesn’t include the perspectives and ideas of young adults, is sub par. But my thoughts on the value of a young mind and ageism…well that’s for next month, so watch this space.

I’m off to prep a talk for the Annual International Youth Ag Summit, just another day on the YFM job, which is not just a job or a lifestyle for that matter. It’s my purpose.

Just a note that this is the first of many posts I’ll be writing as I ‘do’ YFM, and reflect on how the bloody hell I ended up being the Director of a national organisation. Occasionally I’ll bring my right hand woman Joanna along to add her two cents into the mix. Also, if there is anything you wanted to hear about, from either me or YFM shoot us an email at hello@youthfoodmovement.org.au.

Alexandra Iljadica

2 Comments

    • Sophia Choo

      Hi Alexandra, I love that you wrote this post to shove it in your friends’ faces! No, all jokes aside starting YFM because of a passion and interest in where food comes from and sustainable resources is really inspiring and it’s incredible to see how this has grown into the organisation YFM is today. I’ve started a blog to help uni students reduce their food waste and environmental footprints on the earth, connecting them resources like your’s on food waste, food and rescue, education and ways to get involved similar to YFM’s projects Beefjam and Westside Kitchen. I’ve actually included you on the community page of my blog if you’d like to check it out. I find one of the biggest ways to motivate students and young adults to remind them of the simple steps and small actions they can integrate into their everyday lives, however, I’d like to know what your top tips would be and what you’ve learnt over the years as founder of YFM? Thanks, SC

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