South West Food Community: how government and community initiatives are supporting systemic change towards enhanced food security

Aust N Z J Public Health. 2020 Apr;44(2):129-136. doi: 10.1111/1753-6405.12975. Epub 2020 Feb 26.


Objective: Food security refers to adequate physical, social and economic access to food and is regarded as a complex, 'wicked' issue. This research aimed to understand the perspectives of initiative leaders (stakeholders), regarding their project relating to food security and its possession of characteristics associated with system change to enhance food security.

Methods: Stakeholders (n=51) participated in semi-structured interviews that evaluated initiatives (n=52) against 36 desirable characteristics for system change. Transcripts were analysed using QSR NVivo and Wicked Lab's Tool for Systemic Change.

Results: Community-based initiatives often harnessed the passion of local communities to enhance food security through awareness-raising activities and partnerships. Few initiatives created conflict to disrupt the current way of working. The largest 'window of opportunity' included better connection between government and community groups.

Conclusions: This novel contribution provided in-depth understanding of individual initiatives and patterns of working among the food security system in the South West region of Western Australia. Implications for public health: Recommendations to better foster connection between the government and community initiatives include: ensuring government worker responsibilities include task and indicator-related measures; and strengthening understanding of food security among community groups of staff and elected member roles within local government and the ways local government could be supported to harness community knowledge.

Keywords: community programs; food security; rural; systemic innovation.

MeSH terms

  • Community Participation
  • Food
  • Food Supply / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Local Government*
  • Organizational Innovation*
  • Rural Population*
  • Social Welfare
  • South Australia
  • Western Australia