Skip to content

Latest updates

Subscribe for updates
Receive our latest news, features author insights, previews, giveaways, events, and more.
03 July 2023

Q&A: Re-food with Emily King

If you're anything like us, you're always thinking about what's for your next meal: but what about where it comes from? We chatted with Emily King, author of Re-food (Mary Egan Publishing) about why she chose to write on food systems.

Kia ora Emily! Please tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be a writer.

Ko Emily King tōku ingoa. I tipuake au i raro i a Taranaki. Ko Waiheke tōku kāinga inaianei. I’m Emily King, I grew up in rural Taranaki, and these days I live with my family on Waiheke.

I have always loved to write, and this has been channeled through my work, first as a lawyer and now in food systems change. I also enjoy reading and writing fiction, even though Re-food is non-fiction.

Why has Re-food come to be at this particular time?

The zeitgeist is important for any piece of writing and a few things have led to this for Re-food. I’ve been working in food systems change nationally and internationally for over a decade and in Aotearoa, New Zealand, this conversation has been evolving across this time. We are now at a point where people grasp the tangible realities of the food system, its enormity, and the potential for its positive impact through change, as well as its challenges. A decade ago I don’t think we were ready, even the term ‘food system’ wasn’t well understood or used. Visceral impacts like Covid-19 and the recent extreme weather events impacting our farmers and growers, have also heightened the public’s awareness of this topic and its willingness to receive and read information about it. On a personal level, with Covid-19 sweeping the planet in 2020 I felt helpless so I felt it incredibly useful to channel that into getting my thoughts down on paper about food systems change and what I thought needed to happen.

“I really think that even more than ever there is a role for books to share information in long form to help people get their views and perspectives clear on a topic.”

Obviously you have an incredible breadth of experience in this field; what are the commonalities and differences between this book project and your previous work in food systems?

The difference with Re-food from my other work is writing for a wider audience, the more ‘general public’ as my work tends to be with businesses and organisations who are engaged in food systems work. While I draw on my work and experiences, Re-food also led me to interview experts and respected people in their sectors, to gain a wider understanding of the issues and it forced me to make decisions on topics and communicate my points clearly. While the crux of the issues haven’t and don’t change, it is interesting with printed books that there is a line in the sand drawn, and any events or changes that happen once it’s published, you can’t go back and change. I really think that even more than ever there is a role for books to share information in long form to help people get their views and perspectives clear on a topic. The essence of Re-food is the same as my work, because the whole point of the book is to get people to take a full systems approach and then apply that to problems. I’ve seen this work and I hope that through Re-food that happens for more people.

What inspired the three-part structure of the book?

These are the core parts of the food system: how we grow, make and then ultimately eat (or don’t eat) food. It felt like a logical structure to help people navigate the journey of food that also replicates the food system. The chapters are ‘problem’ focused in that they explore the critical issues in the food system but they also offer inspiration through the ‘change we need’ chapters at the end of each part. The book journey moves from the environment through to social and human impacts of food.

Was there anyone you had in mind while writing this? Who do you think should read it?

Two people were in mind: the shopper/consumer trying to make sense of this system; and the food business (including farmers and growers) trying to also understand what they can do. These are two of the main hats people wear in the system and I believe that the book speaks to those different roles people have.

Linked with the above, what would you most like people to learn from Re-food, or what kind of thinking would you like to inspire?

Bigger picture thinking that considers the whole system, not just the separate part that each person plays. Understanding your sphere of influence and its interconnections with others in the system will ultimately be what triggers beneficial change. That, along with empathy.

What’s next for you?

Continuing to cultivate change in the food system, but now with more people engaged and on board with it.

Re-food: Exploring the troubled food system of Aotearoa New Zealand by Emily King $45.00 RRP, (Mary Egan Publishing). See for more information on Emily’s work.