Civil society organisations (CSOs) are increasingly participating in food system governance in ways that challenge the dominant industrialised profit-driven system.
An online survey of Australian CSOs that self-identified as being involved in food system governance was conducted to identify their objectives and activities and the enablers of, and barriers to, their participation in food system governance. Respondents were nongovernment organisations/registered charities, social enterprises, businesses and collaborative research initiatives involved in food system governance in Australia (n = 43).
Organisations undertook activities across all dimensions of the food system (food growing/production, distribution, sale, marketing, access and consumption) and had diverse goals related to health, sustainability and social and economic development. They engaged in food system governance via activities such as advocacy and lobbying for policy and legislative change and guiding policy development. Key enablers of this engagement included funding, internal capacity, external supports and collaborations, and inclusive consultation processes and, when not present, were considered barriers.
CSOs play an important role in food system governance in Australia, including by influencing policy outcomes, contributing to more inclusive and democratic forms of governance and leading community-based food system policies. For CSOs to play a more central role, provision of longer-term funding; creation of dedicated food and nutrition policies at local, state and federal government levels; and governance processes that are inclusive, accessible and minimise power differentials are required. This study's findings can be used to identify many opportunities for dietitians to engage with CSOs in education, research and advocacy roles for food system transformation.
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