Staying in Sydney: Formal/informal foodways in a time of gentrification

Dr Kate Johnston1

1Sydney Environment Institute, University Of Sydney, Sydney, Australia


Staying in Sydney is no easy task as housing prices increase, neighbourhoods rapidly transform, and social housing is pushed to the geographical edges. It is also no mean feat for food enterprises to stay and sustain their practices while being at the whims of these same processes. Furthermore, at a time when food insecurity is on the rise in the City of Sydney (2016) and our food systems are putting enormous pressures on environments, it is important to think about how socially just and ecologically responsible food enterprises can be sustained in the City and what conditions may support them.

Within this climate food entrepreneurs engage in a range of informal to formal practices, which on a basic level, means practices that have differing levels and forms of engagement with regulation. Through an informal/formal lens this paper explores the relationship of food to entrepreneurship, creativity, governance and development and sketches out the challenges and opportunities of participating in the food ecosystem in Sydney in a time of rapid change. The paper does so from the Author’s position working on FoodLab Sydney, a recent initiative which aims to address rising food insecurity and catalyse wider food systems change.


Kate is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the Australian Research Council (ARC) funded project FoodLab Sydney (2018-2020) with partners including City of Sydney and FoodLab Detroit.  She previously worked in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies (University of Sydney) on the Sustainable Fish Lab project. Her research interests include environmental/food justice, food systems, sustainability, blue humanities, experimental and interdisciplinary methodologies.


The Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG) is the principal body representing geographers and promoting the study and application of geography in Australia. It was founded in 1958 and since then has promoted, supported and defended Australian geography.

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