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From September 14-21, 2020, COOLmob teamed up with GULP NT to run the Top End Local Food Challenge, celebrating the abundance of food that grows in our own Top End backyard! The initiative challenged people to make the switch to eating local, as not only is it good for the planet but it also supports local farmers and food producers AND means eating a lot more healthily.

Local food was defined as "Top End' so from below Katherine to Tiwi Islands- but as local as possible was encouraged.

GULP NT collaborated with Inspired NT to created a booklet, The Science Behind Tropical Local Food, and an at home growing kit to help people get started with growing their own food. 

The Challenge...

  • Bite size: Incorporating at least one local food ingredient into at least one meal every day for the week
  • Meal size: One meal every day for the week made with mostly locally grown or produced ingredients
  • Fresh foods: Sourcing all your fresh food (fruit and veg and meats) for the entire week locally
  • Survival style: Every single food and ingredient you eat for the week is 100% local including salt and oil

Who took part?

  • 328 people signed up for the challenge
  • 11 businesses & ABC Darwin signed up to support the challenge. Did you see us in the news or hear on the radio?
  • Break down of challenge levels:
    • Bite size - 27%
    • Meal size - 35%
    • Fresh foods - 31%
    • Survival style - 6%
  • 91% of you told us you're extremely interested in learning more about local food 
  • 90% of you gave 3 or less stars out of 5 when asked how much local food makes up your diet before the challenge
  • 44% of you have lived in the Top End for over 10 years, with most keen to learn more about local food and get growing more. This shows us there is a need for more projects like this
  • 96 people participated in workshops and meet up events

Downloadable resources created

Business who signed up

  • Eva Valley Meats
  • Saffron Restaurant 
  • De La Plage
  • Rum Jungle Organics
  • Snapper Rocks
  • The Cavenagh Hotel
  • Nightcliff Friendly Grocers
  • Groove Cafe and Makers Space

Workshops run

  • Okra cooking workshop - booked out! 
  • Green bananas cooking workshop - booked out! 
  • Jackfruit cooking workshop - booked out! 
  • Paw paw workshops - booked out! 
  • Sweet potato workshops - booked out! 
  • DIY salt and spices workshop
  • Palmerston workshops at Harvest Corner
  • BYO pop-up dinners and lunches to meet other participants

How did it benefit the community?

  • Encourage the community to source more of their diet from local producers in the "Top End'' - Katherine to the Tiwi Islands
  • Highlighting the issue of food miles - most foods in Top End supermarkets come from at least 3000km away
  • Building community support for more sustainable and fairer food systems
  • Supporting local farmers and food producers
  • Connecting people to place and community
  • An opportunity to educate Territorians about the need for local food security

Testimonials from challenge participants

"Thank you for the inspiration and the knowledge to grow and eat local produce with the Food Challenge. It gave us a goal to aim for, an event to be a part of and others to connect with. We really appreciated the STEM kit. It was so well put together and easy to access."

"A great initiative that prompts people to examine and re-evaluate the true sustainability of their food, and encourages shopping and purchasing local. Positives for everyone all round!"

"I loved this challenge. Getting the veggie box from AG was an easy way to participate. I got very creative cooking up veggies some winning recipes according to the kids were my pumpkin and black bean enchiladas and roasted eggplant san chow bau."

"It was great week! I was grateful for what I harvested in my garden more than ever and felt a beautiful connection to other participants in this challenge although I didn’t have any technological or physical contact with them. It really made me happy when I thought of other likeminded people doing the same challenge with great intention."

"This was a great initiative that inspired discoveries of local food, new tastes and recipes and conversations with others. I was excited and more inventive when planning and making meals. More aware of food miles and food waste now. Developed a love for okra and eggplant (didn't think that would happen!) and cooked with banana peel! Appreciated the workshops beforehand and sharing of knowledge throughout. Thank you!"

Where to from here?

Data collected from participants when they signed onto the challenge and post challenge demonstrates a community desire for more education around growing local tropical foods, the need for stronger policy in the Top End supporting small scale farming, food security, local food resilience and education to students and adults. 

  • All 38 participants who completed the feedback survey said they'd like to see more projects supporting and educating around local food advocacy and food security happening in the Top End
  • When asked what participants would like to get out of the challenge, the most common answers included:
    • know more about local food and the nutrition
    • find out more about where the food I eat comes from
    • get more local food on my plate
    • Learn more about how to grow food in the Wet/Dry tropics
    • Become better at growing my own produce
    • Better NT based diet
    • How to use/ cook the different vegetable found in Darwin
    • learn new recipes for local food
    • Educating my family and becoming more confident in growing produce

Participants were invited to join GULP NT as volunteers to help develop a 5 year strategic plan. This is currently underway. 

COOLmob have been lucky to Timothy Palmer, a Clean Technology, Sustainability and Environmental scientist from Flinders University in South Australia undertaking a placement with ECNT and COOLmob for 5 weeks over Nov/Dec. Tim is undertaking a project focusing on "Food Security and Sustainability in the NT" and writing a research report to hopefully lay the foundations for a dedicated Food Security Policy in the NT. The scope of the project is large and will focus on "Threats and Opportunities" to food security and sustainability, including sections on

  • Accessibility to healthy and affordable food in remote indigenous communities;

  • Food distribution during times of crisis such as cyclones, pandemics etc;

  • Sustainable agriculture, including responsible water and land use;

  • Encouraging households and communities to grow more of their own fruit and vegetables;

  • Recommending for leaders and stakeholders to adopt policies or strategies to deal with food insecurity, and to implement sustainable agricultural practices into the future. 

We'll be sharing his work with you once complete via our website, and will be using it to help advocate for stronger policy in the NT.