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Women in business in food and drink

20 October 2016

Chelsea Ford Monica Meldrum

Imagine connecting a woman currently working out of a home kitchen with a food manufacturer? What if that manufacturer had better connections with the perfect distributor? What if those running catering companies had easier access to unique foods and beverages developed by entrepreneurs from around the world? What if food stylists and photographers all had a place to connect and network?

That’s the mission at Chelsea Ford’s Females in Food – a new online community dedicated to promoting a world where women are empowered to create opportunities for themselves and others in the food and beverage industry.

Chelsea (above left) has an event planned for November 15 to introduce Females in Food to a greater audience with Monica Meldrum (above right) from Whole Kids. Monica is a 2016 Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence awardee. She will join with chef Nicky Riemer for the lunch. Monica began her business after she returned from delivering an aid program to children in Indonesia. Whole Kids turns over $6 million a year producing organic, healthy snacks.

Sophie Hansen, named the 2016 Rural Woman of the Year, has a plan to get framers telling their stories on social media and putting rural producers in touch with other producers, businesses and the public.

"It’s really important to be transparent, to tell your story. We’re doing great things, so let’s invite people onto the farm [through social media] and say ‘hey, this is how we farm, this is what we’re all about, this is what we believe in’,” says Sophie who is a blogger and farmer.

The Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation's annual awards celebrate Australian women in farming, regional and rural communities, which includes a surprising amount of women involved in the food and beverage industry.

Fortune magazine’s (albeit American-heavy) list of most innovative women in food and drink goes further than chefs and producers, to include consultants and policy makers and even inventors. In the area of policy making, Emily Broad Leib caught the eye. As the debate around food labelling - especially “Use by” and “Best by” dates - rages in First World countries her research and work on labelling and making food easier to donate has enormous implications for all people when it comes to the amount of food that is tossed out to end up in landfill every year.

According to the United Nations, the world produces enough food for everyone. Getting it to the people who need it is the problem. Better labelling, as well as scientific rigour around determining when food is out of date, will help this process enormously.

Another fantastic innovation is Kavita Shukla’s FreshPaper. According to Kavita’s research, 25 per cent of food wastage is due to spoilage. FreshPaper is sheets of paper infused with herbs which are naturally antibacterial. Wrapping produce in them helps it last up to four times longer.