Thinking about Food with Natalie molino
Executive Director of the Sandro Demaio Foundation
“We want to expand the meaning of food beyond its role as fuel to sustain people.”
That is the crux of the matter. It is not one variable or the other, it is the interconnectedness of humanity, health and nature. The Sandro Demaio Foundation endeavours to redirect our attention back to food as a tool to inspire positive change; in our bodies, our social system and our environment.
Natalie Molino is busily beavering away at the Sandro Demaio Foundation where she is the Executive Director and the chief organiser of all things good food and good health. She is preparing for the Foundation’s upcoming event, festival21- “a massive, grass-roots celebration of food, culture and future.”
“festival21 is our flagship project and our tool to inspire change, educate and spark action,” said Molino. The festival, a two-day celebration of food, will encourage Australians to connect with bold and disruptive ideas, new solutions and foster new connections.
There’s no question that food presents some of our biggest challenges, but it is also key in overcoming them. The very simple act of eating is in fact the most immediate way for us to create change.
Flutter time back some years and Molino was in Sydney, sitting around the kitchen table. It was there that Molino began absorbing the importance of food, not only for its flavour and nutritional benefit, but for its ability to connect. On Friday nights, her Italian family would gather for an evening together, and that evening centred around food and conversation.
“Every single Friday, without fail my entire extended family will get together for a meal. This has always been a very important part of my life - a medium to connect with my family and loved ones.”
Dr Sandro Demaio had similar tidings as a young man. Food was a central meeting point in his life, where quality time was valued; conversation moved like jazz, drifting and dancing around the space. These early experiences hold great value to Demaio and Molino. There’s a tangibility to their experiences and there’s a memorability- an aroma, a flavour, a sentiment and these things take form in their present day lives.
Demaio, a doctor, and Molino, a biomedicine and Public Health graduate, were both driven to create better health and better life experiences. Natalie loved her biomedicine course but unlike many of her fellow students, she did not raise her hand when asked if she wanted to be a doctor. She was most interested in preventing people from getting diseases in the first place. She went on to do a master’s degree in public health.
“My focus was always on non-communicable disease - diabetes, cancer, heart disease and lung disease. These diseases all have common risk factors, with unhealthy diets being the leading contributor.”
A much-admired Melbourne University Professor, Rob Moodie, recognised Natalie’s enthusiasm and knew another fellow who shared the same zeal- Demaio. Together they ran an event in place of the University of Melbourne’s Festival of Ideas. That’s where all the groundwork for the Sandro Demaio Foundation began.
“Early in 2018, Sandro wanted to establish a Foundation that would be innovative and disruptive in the public health space, particularly focused on food systems and how that relates to both health and environmental sustainability. That led to the birth of the Sandro Demaio Foundation and a burgeoning number of projects.”
“Essentially, food is something we can all relate to, we eat it three times a day, and at the foundation we are trying to move forward a number of projects which tie together the interconnections of food, planet and health,” said Molino.
Article by Sinead Halliday