Food Politics: From the Margins to the Mainstream

The Food Politics: from the Margins to the Mainstream conference was held in Hobart on 30 June – 1 July 2016. This 2-day symposium brought together delegates from across Australia and from a range of disciplines (from the creative arts to the food sciences) to discuss the challenges facing our food systems and food futures. Papers canvassed a variety of issues: raw milk debates, consumer-driven changes to food packaging, food television, restaurant reviews, health and sustainability initiatives, food labelling, and the new identities and practices associated with farming and food production.

Keynote speakers Prof Mike Goodman (University of Reading) and A/Prof Tania Lewis (RMIT University), who also hosted masterclasses for postgraduate students and early career researchers, highlighted some of the challenges our disciplines face when studying contemporary food politics and offered some new ways forward to thinking about the interconnectedness of food practices, media representations, and research protocols.

Follow the links below for media coverage of key debates:

Interview with Michelle Phillipov on ABC Radio (scroll through to 19:20)

  • MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules have become staples on the TV menu. But academics are keen to know how the media’s portrayal of food and the way it’s farmed is shaping public opinion. This week the University of Tasmania is hosting a conference titled Food Politics: From the Margins to the Mainstream. Conference organiser Michelle Phillipov says in the end, community’s attitude will play a role in designing our future food systems.

Interview with Maarten Stapper on ABC Radio (scroll through to 17:20)

  • A conference looking at the politics of food has been told that Australia’s farming systems need to be better connected with the science of nutrition and health. Academics, nutritionists and ethicists are debating the politics of food at the Food Politics: from the Margins to the Mainstream conference in Hobart. Maarten Stapper, a former CSIRO scientist and now BioLogic AgFood consultant in Canberra presented in one of the sessions on ‘Re-imagining Food Production’.

Interview with Tania Lewis on ABC Radio (scroll through to 40:20)

  • Once the air waves and TV shows were the sole domain of professionals and celebrities. But YouTube, Twitter and Facebook have created a space for individuals to enter the space and share their opinion, reviews or commentary on a range of issues, including food. Associate Professor Tania Lewis from RMIT has been studying the digital food space.

Advice to food producers on using the media

Michelle Phillipov has recently published two journal articles that offer advice to artisan food and beverage producers seeking to use entertainment media – specifically television – as a promotional tool. There are notable opportunities and pitfalls involved in using the media to promote artisan products, and these articles in Food Australia and The British Food Journal offer some important tips for producers including:

  1.  Anticipate the increased customer contact that can result from a food television appearance. For example, make sure your website is comprehensive and up-to-date.
  2. Thoroughly research the show before agreeing to appear. It is not just a case of ‘any publicity is good publicity’. Find out who the show’s audience is and determine whether this is the right target market for your products.
  3. Be realistic about likely outcomes. The promotional opportunities afforded by food television are best leveraged when used as part of a longer-term brand management strategy rather than as something expected to produce immediate results, so they should be approached in these terms.
  4. Be prepared to hone your media skills. This will help you achieve the best outcomes when using the media to promote your business. For example, make sure you understand the genre conventions of a television program you have been invited to appear on, and be prepared to work across multiple media platforms.
  5. A segment on television is likely to be more beneficial if it emphasises customer experiences rather than products. Be prepared to focus on the experiential aspect of your product or business rather than on technical descriptions or explanations, as these will less likely suit the narrative arc of the television show.

More information about publications relating to the project can be found on our Publications page.

Project update

We have just passed the halfway mark with our research.  Almost 40 interviews have been completed with a range of stakeholders, including celebrity chefs, media production staff, television cooking show contestants, food retailers and food industry personnel.  Many thanks to everyone who has participated so far.

Results of the research have been published or accepted for publication in a range of academic and professional forums, including Food AustraliaScreen EducationPopular CommunicationMedia International AustraliaAgriculture and Human ValuesM/C JournalThe Conversation, and in a forthcoming edited collection called Food, Media and Contemporary Culture: The Edible Image published by Palgrave Macmillan.  Research for the project has also resulted in the book Fats: A Global History, which will be published as part of Reaktion Book’s ‘Edible Series’ in 2016.  News about publications will be regularly updated, but you can see some of the early results of the study on our Publications page.

In addition to publications, research findings have been presented at a number of national and international conferences, including:

  • Unnatural Futures, Hobart, July 2014
  • ANZCA (Australia and New Zealand Communication Association) annual conference, Melbourne, July 2014
  • Agrifood XXI: Food, Planet, People, Sydney, November 2014
  • IAMCR (International Association for Media and Communication Research) annual conference, Montreal, July 2015

More publications and conference presentations are planned for the remainder of this year and for next year.  Updates will be included here as they are available.


Welcome to the official website of the research project ‘The New Politics of Food and the Australian Media’.

This research is funded for 3 years (2014-2016) by the Australian Research Council’s Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) scheme, and is based at the University of Tasmania in Hobart, Australia. Dr Michelle Phillipov explains the project in this short video.

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