Australia is becoming a hungry nation, with an increasing number of people experiencing poverty and food insecurity on a regular basis. These inequities are being exacerbated by the issue of food waste.
We throw away about 7.6 million tons of food every year in Australia – a lot of which is high quality and nutritious. This waste is costing the economy billions of dollars and leading to increased carbon emissions associated with food overproduction.
Cafe Lab is a zero-waste food justice cafe led by RMIT Professors Tania Lewis and Martyn Hook, in conjunction with chef-activist Dr. Helen Addison-Smith, which aims to support insecure Melburnians and contribute to building a sustainable and low carbon hospitality sector.
Located in Smith Street, Collingwood, Cafe Lab will educate RMIT staff, students and the public about the wicked problem of food waste and provide free, delicious meals using upcycled food.
The cafe will also function as a multidisciplinary research hub, offering a venue for researchers, industry and other stakeholders to experiment with and showcase sustainable innovations.
The venue is now under development and will open in the next few months. The plan is for it to become a communal, convivial space for those experiencing food insecurity to share a free meal, and for the public to learn about sustainability-oriented research and innovation.
A partner project running alongside Cafe Lab is focused on developing best practice guidelines for cafes in Australia. Through taking inspiration from grassroots sustainability efforts, building relationships with stakeholders, and tapping into the community's skills and expertise, the research team have gained significant insights into how sustainable practices in the hospitality industry can be achieved and will continue to translate these into inner urban communities.
Cafe Lab is a cross-university, STEM and Humanities and Social Sciences project involving a diverse range of stakeholders. RMIT’s Early Career Research network is core to the project, encouraging engagement from emerging researchers across different disciplines.
Partners and supporters include the Social Change Enabling Impact Platform, Terry Wu (arts and social entrepreneur), Regen Melbourne, Open Table, Cultivating Community, William Angliss Institute, and the Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre.
This project is led by the School of Media and Communication, and the School of Architecture and Urban Design.