Flatlay of a health balanced diet (stock image)

Addressing global food system challenges through public health law

11 March 2024
Improving population health and sustainable development
From co-founding the Food Governance Conference to the regulation of unhealthy food marketing to children, Associate Professor Belinda Reeve is leading research to explore the role of law, regulation, and policy in creating a healthy and sustainable food system.
Image of Associate Professor Belinda Reeve

Food insecurity, food system sustainability, and diet-related ill-health are among the most critical public health and environmental challenges facing the global food system.

Associate Professor Belinda Reeve from The University of Sydney Law School is leveraging her expertise in public health law to explore both legal and governance solutions to overcome these challenges. 

Reeve’s research looks at the role of law, regulation, and policy in creating a healthy and sustainable food system through innovative regulation measures and food system governance at the local level.

As part of this important research, Reeve was the lead investigator on an Australian Research Council funded study which analysed the role of local governments and communities in creating a healthy, sustainable, and equitable food system.

Before joining the University of Sydney, Reeve worked at the O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, researching topics such as law and non-communicable disease prevention, health and human rights, and global governance and infectious disease control.

“I have a background in public health law,” Reeve said.

"It’s about the use of law to create the conditions for people to live healthy lives. I'm motivated to use my expertise in law to try and find innovative solutions to these challenges.

Feeding collaboration

As the co-founder of the Food Governance Conference and the Food Governance Node at the University’s Charles Perkins Centre, Reeve advocates for the role that collaboration between researchers, advocates and community organizations plays in effectively addressing the global food system challenges.  

In partnership with the Global Center for Legal Innovation on Food Environments, the Food Governance Node and The George Institute for Global Health formed the Food Governance Conference – presenting a platform for attendees to share topical ideas, advocacy and research that addresses food governance issues facing the global population. 

“The conference takes a multi-disciplinary approach and brings together lawyers, policymakers, nutritionists, and health scientists from across Australia, and increasingly, around the world,” Reeve said. 

“Ultimately, it creates a global research community that can tackle some of the most critical health and environmental challenges faced by our planet.”

Food governance can bring into play everything from constitutional law and international trade agreements to rules on the disclosure of campaign donations.
Associate Professor Belinda Reeve

This year’s two-day conference hosted distinguished panel members and keynote speakers including Professor Anne Marie Thow, Professor Sharon Friel and Professor Tom Calma AO.

Associate Professor Reeve believes there were several key priorities raised during the conference that will move the dial on food governance at local, national, regional and global levels.

“There is a need to decolonise food governance and to create truly inclusive governance models,” Reeve said.

“We must also address the role of large international companies in aggressively marketing and selling unhealthy foods and beverages, along with their actions in blocking or weakening effective government laws and policies, such as lobbying against taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages.”

“I hope this conference has brought together researchers, activists, and practitioners from multiple fields to create new connections and thinking on food governance.”

Learn more about Reeve’s research and why Australian local governments are critical to transforming how we grow, transport, sell, eat and dispose of food, at the Raising the Bar event on Tuesday 9 April. Find tickets for Associate Professor Reeve’s talk here

A/Prof. Belinda Reeve
Senior Lecturer

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