With more than a quarter of a billion people potentially at the brink of starvation, swift action needs to be taken to provide food and humanitarian relief to the most at-risk regions.
– United Nations

At Victoria University, we work to eliminate hunger through food-resource research, public-health curriculum, and student support.

Our Advance Food Systems research group focuses on sustainable food production, while our health and policy research addresses inequalities, nutrition and body-image issues as causes of hunger.

In 2021, we partnered with not-for-profit organisation SecondBite to provide students with free, healthy frozen meals to eat at home. And our ongoing support funds and scholarships help our students with day-to-day food costs.

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Research projects & engagement 2020–21

Ashok Sharma and Ted Gardner undertook an Assessment of socio- economic factors impacting on the cropping intensity of an irrigation scheme in developing countries as a framework to solve barriers to the increase of cropping intensity required to achieve global food security.

Victoria University research into sustainable agriculture on the water footprint of food exports found Australia loses about 35,000 gigalitres of freshwater a year embedded in agricultural exports. That is roughly equivalent to all Australia’s stored reservoir water. As Australia has volatile water resources, measuring the water footprint of products is critical for national policy. The study found 65% of the nation’s agricultural products are exported for relatively low benefit, when water is factored into the cost. The report was co- authored by Dr Muhammad Tariq and Dr Nitin Muttil and two Bachelor of Civil Engineering students Riley Damnics and Zohreh Rajabi, along with Muhammad Laiq Ur Rahman Shahid from the University of Engineering and Technology Taxila. Dr Tariq and Dr Muttil mentored the students in after-class sessions toward a goal of publication.

The Mitchell Institute released a policy evidence brief on Nutrition Policy In Australia: Adopting A Harm Minimisation Approach. The policy brief examined the specific food components and dietary risk factors which are responsible for the greatest amount of harm to health outcomes in Australia and presents the case for adopting a formal harm minimisation approach regarding nutrition policy in Australia.

Mark Horridge from the Centre of Policy Studies collaborated with Brazilian researchers to look at the critical question of The Expansion of Irrigated Agriculture in Brazil and Potential Regional Limitations. The book presents modelled scenarios to assess the impacts on water demand for 2025. Expansion has benefits to farmers and for food security, but it has a damaging effect on water availability and may worsen episodes of regional water scarcity.

Giang Hoang co-authored recommendations for how the Vietnamese government could promote Geographical Indications implementation to enhance agricultural product quality in Vietnam.

Vasileios Stavropoulos worked with Turkish and UK researchers to develop a new food addiction scale for the measurement, prevalence and psychological risk factors associated with addictive food consumption.

The Advanced Food Systems researchers examined the nutritional value of eight species of native food plants from Martang Djab Wurrung Country and Worngundidj Country in Western Victoria. Despite popular use, rich nutrient content and adaptability to harsh climatic conditions, there are limited scientific data for many useful native food plants to help reduce dependence on unhealthy food choices in Australia. The research established preliminary findings for the sustained nutritional value of the native food plants over a three year period.

A Victoria University researcher, Dr Fiona MacDonald, who specialises in inclusive education, has looked at the effect that remote learning in 2020 due to COVID-19 will have on school breakfast clubs. The clubs, a partnership between the Victorian Government and Foodbank Victoria, provide disadvantaged children with healthy breakfasts before school. Dr MacDonald co-authored an evaluation of the school breakfast program which found the clubs create nurturing and caring spaces that make children feel safe and welcome at school – something that cannot easily be replicated when students are at home. Dr MacDonald said: One of the greatest challenges as COVID-19 forces schools online is managing the gap between advantage and disadvantage. It is yet to be seen if a substitute such as a door-drop delivery of food packs conveys the same level of connection, nurturing and care.

VU launched a new Bachelor of Nutritional Science / Master of Dietetics to address the need to improve diet-related health.