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Soul food

FoodFaith is an initiative only 15 months old, but has already attracted the support of Australia’s leading religious organisations. FoodFaith’s Planting Seeds is an interfaith and community garden, which brings together various communities working together to learn about each other’s faiths and culture, while also planning sustainable food growth and consumption. The founder of FoodFaith, Judy Friedlander, told The Point Magazine that the initiative was inspired by her academic research in the field.

“My research with the Institute for Sustainable Futures confirms again and again that people want to be given an excuse to be positive about the environment, that they can see that they can make a difference and counter the huge environmental changes upon us,” she says,

Based in Lane Cove, the FoodFaith idea attracted the local council’s attention and as the garden began to grow so did the idea for building social cohesion and engagement around food sustainability.

“The garden aims to bring different faiths and cultures together and engage people with food sustainability. We call this ‘fertile common ground’. Different groups plant, tend and harvest together and the process of working together, side by side, is pretty heart-warming and everyone relaxes, shares and has fun together,” Friedlander said.

Friedlander said the garden was designed by horticulturist Meredith Kirton in the shape of a giant flower with petal “planters” devoted to different groups and cultures.

“We are not only helping build bridges among us from different faiths and backgrounds but also helping the environment by planting trees, herbs and of course sharing food is also a very positive step towards social cohesion and harmony.”

– Imam Ahmed Abdo

“These beds contain key plants relevant to the faith or culture,” she said. 
“But all groups help one another in the garden and there are many shared beds as well.”

Professor Nihal Agar, president of the Hindu Council of Australia is a participant in the garden, and he told The Point Magazine it is more than just about food.

“By coming together in one place and exchanging the information about our selected plants in the garden, its medicinal, food and/or cultural significance, we are learning a lot about each other’s culture. This helps us in better understanding not only the food but our faiths and cultures.” 

Imam Ahmed Abdo, a Muslim community leader, says the garden aims are in line with the core beliefs of the Muslim faith. “The project is about doing things for other people, not necessarily just for ourselves.”

Friedlander said: “We are not only helping build bridges among us from different faiths and backgrounds but also helping the environment by planting trees, herbs and of course sharing food is also a very positive step towards social cohesion and harmony.”

She said it is important to learn about Mother Earth together and the seriousness of the changes we are witnessing.

“Climate change, water issues, biodiversity; this is pretty overwhelming stuff, but putting your head in the sand doesn't help,” she said. “There is no point preaching environmental strategies and learnings to the converted.

“Faith groups around the world are starting to come on board with sustainability issues and there are vast groups of faith-based people who are in the mainstream who have values and traditions that are just waiting to be reclaimed and re-energised in respect to the environment and our shared Earth.”

The garden also organises educational sessions and workshops on food sustainability and climate change.

Friedlander said: “We intend to create meals for disadvantaged groups. Our first educational workshop this month is being led by a well-known indigenous educator. Locals are also involved in the garden and have personal allotments. Everyone works together really well. It’s quite unique in its concept.”

If you want to get involved visit www.foodfaith.com.au.

The Point

FoodFaith is an initiative only 15 months old, but has already attracted the support of Australia’s leading religious organisations.

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