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Why our relationship with food needs to evolve

“Reconnect; get local; be healthy; love the soil, and grow your community. These are just 5 ways we can change our food systems for the better.” 

Our relationship with food is complex – personally and planetarily. It’s one of the key components for our existence, and yet, our food systems are past their shelf-life. Designed to produce more for less, the impact on our earth, air, and water is overlooked – not to mention our community connections and cultural values. Despite all our evolutionary advantage, we* (*read: humans) have managed to overcomplicate one of the most basic necessities for our survival. 

 Here’s how and why our food system needs to evolve. 

To reconnect with our food and communities

Our current relationship

With the rise of supermarkets and online shopping, we’ve never been more disconnected from the people who make, grow and distribute our food, including the methods used to get it to us and the impact our collective choices have on the planet.

Have you ever picked up a box of crackers and wondered what factory produced them? What about your spinach? Ever thought about who the farmers are and how much they’re paid?  

All our food comes from somewhere, having been grown or produced by someone. Labelling helps connect us with their origins; however, we rarely take the time to consider the actual lifecycle of our food. We just pop it in our trolleys and move on.  

This disconnect is convenient for supermarkets that want to turn a profit. Tokenism is rife when it comes to food standards, with bare-minimum regulations that have more to do with marketing than our welfare or health. Have you ever looked up regulators? Or do you see a red tractor and immediately trust the source? 

Another issue is variety. We no longer have to wait for the seasons to change to eat the food we love. Globalisation means we’re able to eat what we want when we want, which reduces our appreciation of the food we consume. Why get excited about strawberry picking when you can eat a strawberry every day of the year?  

Our lack of connection or awareness of the source to plate lifecycle means less accountability for corporations who benefit from apathy.  

The solution

Reconnecting and improving our relationship with food is as simple as eating locally. Food is also cheaper and better for you (and the planet) when it’s in season. This is because the resources required to ensure your options remain varied — all that extra water, greenhouse gas, Co2 from transportation etc. — isn’t required. It’s also fairer. Multinational food companies profit from poor wages and insecure work, contributing to human exploitation that’s hidden within huge supply chains. 

Another benefit to cooking seasonally is how it creates wonderful opportunities for getting creative in the kitchen. Check out these amazing carrot recipes for scrumptious inspiration!  

We need to get back to our roots, from farm to fork. Better Food Traders foster community-led businesses, where local people have a say in how they’re run.   Feelings of powerlessness can be addressed by joining communities that share a vision and want to tackle the food crisis together. Let’s look after the precious land, air, water and fellow beings that we live amongst, helping the human story get better and better. 

To tackle climate change

Our current relationship

Producing and transporting food, plus storing wasted food in landfills all produce greenhouse gases (GHG), which massively contribute to climate change. Beef and dairy are two of the biggest offenders, with the production of livestock the greatest contributor (at around 14.5%) of global GHG from human activities1.These trends cannot continue. If they do, we risk a rise in global temperatures that exceed 2° Celsius, resulting in catastrophic environmental consequences such as rising sea levels, freshwater contamination, and an increase in CO2 loving pests that destroy crops and livelihoods.  

The solution

Buying fresh, organic, and local fruit and veg is a delicious way to help the planet. Focussing on tasty, seasonal veg can help you to reduce your meat and dairy consumption, which cuts out transport pollution and supports local farmers.    

Sign up for a veg box scheme from a Better Food Trader today!

To improve our overall health

Our current relationship

There’s a paradox when it comes to our food. As pointed out by The Health Foundation, ‘Food is vital for health and wellbeing, but the quality of our diets has deteriorated. We have an epidemic of obesity, while many people experience hunger. And food has never been more widely available, yet many people struggle to access the good food they need for a healthy diet.2Furthermore, it’s harder to buy healthy foods in lower-income areas3, and even if there was more availability, it’s 3-times more expensive to get the energy we need from healthy vs. unhealthy food4.

The solution

At Better Food Traders, we believe availability is key. However, in order to grow more and waste less, there needs to be an increase in demand for healthy, local, and sustainable produce. Currently, our food system promotes unhealthy eating while demonising obesity as a ‘drain on resources.’ Where just 1.2% of the UK’s advertising spend goes on fruit and veg, 22% goes on cakes, biscuits and ice cream5. We need to focus on making good food available to everyone, with wages, education and resources that enable and promote the benefits of a better diet – for people and the planet.  

To nurture and sustain our soil

Our current relationship

Soil degradation is a huge issue facing our planet. A lack of organic matter in our soil caused by industrial farming, over-grazing and global warming has created issues with its stability, productivity and resilience. The risk of flooding due to climate change is another cause for concern. When you consider how soil contains 25% of our global biodiversity, disrupting this delicate balance means risking biodiversity collapse, resulting in malnutrition on a global scale6.It takes 500 – 1000 years to produce a single inch of soil naturally (through the weathering of parent rocks), meaning that we need to start supporting farmers who are regenerating soils right now

The solution

Agroecological farming systems are promising when it comes to saving our soil and feeding the world. It’s a sustainable, whole farming method that works with nature to improve the relationships between plants, animals, people, land, air and water.  Agroecological food systems are protective and respectful of soil biodiversity and ecosystems. They’re also accessible, fair, affordable, safe and healthy.   

To save our soil and evolve our relationship with food, we need to implement and support existing agroecological farming systems across the UK. Organic and biodynamic farming are often agroecological. Furthermore, they’re currently the only legally defined forms of this approach to whole system farming. Regenerative agriculture and permaculture are also methods that support soils. However, to encourage and amplify this work, we need to engage with farmers and growers who use these production methods. Joining a veg box scheme and buying organic food will contribute massively to the success of these systems. 

Sign up for your local Better Food Trader veg box scheme and be the change! 

Join the better food movement and help us improve our relationship with food! We want to disrupt power-greedy supply structures and champion a fairer, healthier, and happier future. 

References  

  1.  Gerber PJ, Steinfeld H, Henderson B, et al. Tackling Climate Change through Livestock – A Global Assessment of Emissions and Mitigation Opportunities. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; 2013.  
  2. The Health Foundation — Our food and our health. Source link: https://www.health.org.uk/infographic/our-food-and-our-health. December 2017  
  3. Williamson et al. Deprivation and healthy food access, cost and availability: a cross-sectional study. Human Nutrition and Dietics. 2017.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jhn.12489  
  4. Jones et al. The growing price gap between more and less healthy foods: Analysis of a novel longitudinal UK dataset.  Source article: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4190277    
  5. Nielsen AdDynamix. Cited in: Food Foundation. Veg Facts. 2016. Source article: http://foodfoundation.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/FF-Veg-Doc-V5.pdf  
  6. Megan Perry. Sustainable food trust — The hidden cost of UK food: Soil degradation. 2018. Source article: https://sustainablefoodtrust.org/articles/the-hidden-cost-of-uk-food-soil-degradation/   

 

Change Tastes Good

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