The spectre of food shortages was raised recently when Minister for Farming, David Heath, warned that rising food prices and global shortages may make it necessary for us to grow more of our own food in future. It has been mistakenly believed in the past that we did not need to produce much food in this country because we could just import what we needed. Globally food has been unrealistically cheap because of subsidies for a long time but from now on the pressures of population and unpredictable weather, due to climate change, are going to mean that food security must be taken seriously.
There are many aspects to consider: water use, the huge resources needed for meat production and our incredibly varied diet which is causing massive health problems, including obesity and diabetes. Consumers need information and access to adequate food supplies which promote health and meet their needs. The message from the international Food Sovereignty movement in Malawi in 2007 was: “Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems….”.
A third of food we buy is thrown away
Genetically modified food is being promoted as a way of increasing production but the technology is widely mistrusted, not least because it provides big corporations with enormous profits. And is it really needed when UK households throw away around a third of the food they buy? This is a serious waste of money when budgets are under strain. Waste food is also a loss of the energy and resources that have gone into its production. And, if put in the ordinary waste bin rather than the doorstep food waste collection, such as the one run by Somerset Waste Partnership, it creates methane which is more than 20 times damaging as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
The “Love food : Hate Waste” campaign from WRAP, is a superb source of ideas for using food effectively and avoiding waste. My favourite is freezing grapes and other fruit getting past their best and using them to make a warm fruit salad to go on your breakfast cereal. http://england.lovefoodhatewaste.com.
Much food is lost across the world for lack of storage and other measures which could improve yields and prevent hunger. Practical Action promotes low tech, sustainable methods of food production and storage, such as fish farming cages in Bangladesh, which rise and fall with floods.http://practicalaction.org/fish-cage
In West Somerset, Transition Minehead and Alcombe promotes local food production and food growing skills through the Friends and Family Allotment in Alcombe and through annual Seed and Plant swaps. They plan, supported by Minehead Town Council, to establish a Community Orchard. The group has a special interest in Permaculture, a method of growing food in an organic way avoiding the use of petroleum based fertilisers and insecticides which are costly and damage ecosystems. The allotment is a work in progress and prospective food growers are always welcome to get involved and share the produce. For information firstname.lastname@example.org , phone 01643 709478 or go to www.transitionminehadandalcomb.org.uk.
“Eat what your grandmother ate”
Michael Pollen, an American food writer who has tried every food available, says: “Eat what your grandmother ate, not too much of it and mostly plants”. I would add, keep the ‘food miles‘ as low as possible – local is ideal and home grown is fantastic.