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The next generation of future food leaders

Who are driving food systems transformation. 

A circle with a photo of a kid carrying kale in a farm. Orange circles and other shapes sit around this in frame.

About the Youth Food Systems Leadership and Employment Program

Food is more than just a product of farming. It’s how people connect to their cultures, their family heritage and to each other.  

During our community listening phase while building Future Healthy, we had conversations with young people and discovered a common theme: young people are interested to learn more about their local food systems but there is a lack of meaningful opportunities specifically for young people.  

And so, equipped with this insight, and in partnership with our 7 Future Healthy Food Hubs, Culture Spring, PermaQueer and Australian Progress, the Youth Food Systems Leadership and Employment Program was born.  

This program supports and empowers young people to mobilise their local communities and transform our local food systems.    

Throughout the program the young participants are based at one of the 7 Food Hubs, where they gain meaningful, employment and hands-on food systems experience – from growing and harvesting food, to the supply and distribution of produce, all while connecting with other young people involved in food systems transformation across Victoria.


Meet our 2023 youth food systems leaders 

And read about some of their experiences 


Ajak Ajak 

United African Farm 

Headshot of Ajak smiling to camera, wearing a black hoodie. He has brown hair that sits around his eyes.
Photo of Ayuol smiling with her hair tied back. She is wearing a grey and black hoodie.

Ayuol Chol

United African Farm 


Dorika Kamiye 

Food Next Door

Headshot of Dorika who has black braided hair in a ponytail with beads. She is wearing a bright orange Food Next Door shirt.
Headshot of Ethan who has short brown hair, brown rimmed glasses and is wearing a blue t-shirt. He is smiling in this photo.

Ethan Loosmore 

Bendigo: Grow, Cook, Share 

  • Ethan's story

    When he finished high school in Castlemaine, Ethan knew he wasn’t looking for your typical 9-5 desk job. He’d always loved the outdoors, so couldn’t have been happier to spend his days in the garden, growing, harvesting, prepping and selling fresh produce at Bendigo’s ‘Grow, Cook Share’ Food Hub.

    He also collects food from Bendigo Food Share that can no longer be donated to community members, turning it into compost back on the farm at the food hub.

    Before starting the program, Ethan admits that he’d often let food in his fridge go bad, not stopping to think about the impact of his food waste. Now, being part of a mini circular economy has completely changed his mindset.

    “Now that I know the hours and hours that go into prepping beds, carting compost, picking and washing and watering, it’s so much for you to waste food. You can be blind to that if you’re not growing the food yourself, or if you buy your produce from the supermarket,” he says.

    Ethan is a great example of how employing a young person in a food systems role can not only foster deeper appreciation, knowledge and a love of food, but can also make a big difference to a local community’s food system. 


Hannigan Heycox

Acres and Acres

Headshot of Hannigan who has short brown hair, a bear and glasses. He is wearing an orange scarf and a brown jacket with a grey t shirt underneath.
Headshot of Hayley wearing a black shirt standing against a white background

Hayley Thomas

Whittlesea Food Collective

  • Hayley's story

    Raised in Colac, Hayley Thomas made the move from regional life to the city when she was seventeen. She undertook an apprenticeship in a commercial kitchen, which is where her interest in local food systems was born.  

    While working as a chef in several cafes and restaurants, her passion for seasonal produce and waste management deepened. She then decided it was time for a career shift. Still in the food space but this time focusing on the production and distribution aspects of the food system at Whittlesea Food Collective (WFC).  

    Seeing the impact of this work has had a profound effect on Hayley.

    “The most rewarding parts have been working directly with the community to make a difference to their lives. One customer expressed to me that they were now able to fit fresh produce into the budget due to our market being more affordable than the supermarkets.”    

    The program has also deepened Hayley’s understanding of how much communities rely on healthy food systems and agriculture.

    “Each part relies on the other to work well, so healthy communities need a sustainable food and agriculture system, and in turn, there needs to be community education around food systems and agriculture.” 


Isobel Bobbera

Common Ground Project

Headshot of Isobel who has brown hair tied up in a ponytail and is wearing a bright blue fleece.
  • Isobel's story

    “All of my best memories are of food,” says Isobel, who has worked with Common Ground Project (CGP) near Geelong for the past twelve months, “and coming from an Italian background, food has always played a big role in my life.”

    Growing up in nature with a mum who loved gardening contributed to Isobel’s appreciation of fresh food and where that food came from, so working at CGP has given her the opportunity to combine her love of food with her desire to make a difference in the food space.

    While she’s always tried to eat food that’s in season, working at the food hub made her acutely aware of the seasonality of fresh produce, as well as how we dispose of food.

    Building on her interest in waste management, Isobel was able to undertake a weekly waste audit with CGP giving her the opportunity to test her knowledge in a practical setting. This has only strengthened Isobel's desire to help people see waste as a resource, instead of something that is merely discarded.

    As part of the program, Isobel has also enjoyed engaging with the Geelong community to understand what they’d like from their local food hub.

Headshot of Josh who has long brown hair and is wearing a black scarf around his neck and a dark grey jumper.

Josh Morrell

Wimmera Food Collective 

  • Josh's story

    With a desire to upskill in a new area and challenge himself creatively, Josh moved from Melbourne to Horsham to work at the Wimmera Food Collective food hub.

    With previous experience as an Artist and Graphic Designer, Josh helped to design and produce products, create social media posts, and work on other art-related materials to help promote the food hub.

    He also gained a deeper understanding of the food system, leading him to overhaul his relationship with food and food purchasing habits.

    “My diet was pretty bad and I wasn’t eating much either, but now I try my best to always have a healthy meal, while still being cost effective!”

    Josh says the program also helped him to polish and refine his customer service skills and gain more experience in running his own business, something he hopes to do in the future.


Cud Armanzi

Whittlesea Food Collective

Headshot of Jude wearing a blue top, sunglasses and a hijab
  • Cud's story

    “Food for me is the memory of my childhood,” says Cud, recalling growing up on her grandmother’s farm in rural Syria, helping the local farmers harvest their olives (in between climbing trees).

    It’s where her passion for food was born. It’s this passion that continues to drive her to help her local community, in Melbourne’s north, access fresh, affordable, culturally-appropriate food, and to reduce food waste.

    Working at the Whittlesea Food Collective’s weekly market, where locals can access fresh food, Cud created a simple food waste tracking system to help reduce food waste.

    Inspired by her Syrian and Turkish culture, where food is rarely thrown out, Cud was able to reduce the amount of food waste by 70% within two months.

Heashot of Laiba who has long brown hair and a nose piercing. She is smiling in this photo.

Laiba Maqbool

Wimmera Food Collective 


  • Laiba's story

    Describing herself as a big foodie, Laiba was on the lookout for a job that combined her food interests with her passion for making a difference in the community.  

    She had studied Food and Nutrition at Uni, so when a role working in Horsham for the Wimmera Food Collective became available, it was the perfect fit.

    One of the most rewarding aspects of the program for Laiba has been the ability to secure multicultural produce for the local community.

    “It’s so exciting seeing the local community happy after they receive their culturally appropriate fruit and vegetables that they’ve been eating all of their lives.”

    Laiba has also started growing her own food at home, and says that even starting with something simple like growing some herbs can create small lifestyle changes.


Libby Doughty

Common Ground Project

Headshot of Libby who has shoulder length brown hair, a beanie on and a dress over a checkered long sleeve shirt.
  • Libby's story

    “Even as a child, I’d pick up trash on the beach and was thinking about the global environment,” says Libby, whose journey from the South Coast of NSW to Victoria’s Surf Coast is one of food, connection and community.

    While still at High School, Libby enrolled in a horticulture course and undertook a school-based traineeship, working at a bio-dynamic market garden, where she learnt about regeneratively grown food and soil health.

    When the work she was doing at a small backyard garden was finishing, she started working at Common Ground Project’s food hub near Geelong, loving the chance to work for a community-led organisation.

    For Libby ‘food always tastes better when you have a story to go with it.’

    She’s developed a deep respect for her food since working at the food hub, understanding the work that goes into its production, and has formed strong connections with local growers throughout the Geelong community, preferring to now shop with them as opposed to supermarkets.

Headshot of Talib who has short brown hair and is wearing a light grey shirt. He is smiling in this photo.

Talib Hussain Mohammadi

Nourish Sunraysia 

  • Talib's story

    One the Talib's biggest surprises when he arrived in Australia was the amount of food waste created every day.

    He'd come from Pakistan, where leftover food isn’t thrown away – it’s turned into jams, sauces and preserves to extend it’s life.

    “Back home, if my mum saw that the price of tomatoes was cheap, she would make a tomato sauce, store it in a jar and use it for a long time. I wondered why people here were not doing the same thing. Here, an apple is being thrown into the bin – why do we not make apple jam?”

    He raised his concerns with his Food Hub co-ordinator at Nourish Sunraysia in Mildura, and they turned their attention to making jam.

    Their first successful batch was mulberry jam, and they plan to build on this success by transforming other donated fruit into jam to sell at the food hub.

    Not only has Talib had a direct impact on his local food system, but he’s preserving a part of his culture, and an appreciation for the value of food, one jar at a time. 

Artwork by Dexx (Gunditjmara/Boon Wurrung) ‘Mobs Coming Together’ 2022
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Artwork Credit: Dexx (Gunditjmara/Boon Wurrung) ‘Mobs Coming Together’ 2022, acrylic on canvas. Learn more about this artwork.