By Dinali Devasagayam
Food… so much can be said about food: the stuff of life and one of its great pleasures.
The foods we eat say a lot about a culture. These days Westerners are quite disconnected from the process of acquiring food, be it growing, hunting or gathering, and even for some people preparing a meal. Food has become a resource intensive industry with vast, complex supply chains involving many people, places and processes. There a number of impacts of this convoluted way we manage our food system – the use of synthetic chemicals both in the growing and then in the processing, the transport which contributes to air pollution and global warming, all the packaging which ends up in landfill, the substandard taste (nothing compares to a fruit picked off a tree and eaten on the spot!) and so on. We are probably all aware of these costs and yet there is a certain convenience of going down to the closest supermarket or takeaway after a long day at work and grabbing a pre-made meal.
So the question then is how to begin to change our relationship with food? Hippocrates said “let food be thy medicine and thy medicine food”. Sound advice. I would add that food also needs to be balanced with the ecosystem we live in. It is not reasonable to expect to eat the same fruit and vegetables all year round – enjoy instead the seasonal variation in produce. Nor should we routinely be buying more food than we consume (statistics show that the average Australian throws away 20% of the food they buy).
Source: Food Wise
We need to be mindful to only buy what we need and accept that blemishes and misshapen produce – so called “ugly food” – are still perfectly find to eat. A twisted carrot really does taste the same as a straight one. Eating less meat and seafood is also better for the environment in many ways. For instance the methane emissions from cattle contribute significantly to global warming. While the majority of fish species we consume are being rapidly depleted to the point of extinction which in turn affects the health of entire ocean food chains. There is also the issues of the long supply chains from grower to consumer and the amount of waste and pollution generated at every the supply chain. Eating locally grown produce or even growing some of our own food can help. Farmers markets, swap and share gatherings and community supported agriculture schemes are now popping up all over the place. There might even be one in your local neighbourhood.
Community Food Swap. Photo: Local Harvest
Restructuring the industrial agricultural and production system into a more ethical and sustainable arrangement is too much for any one of us to do alone. Each of us can however start in some small way to reconnect with the food we eat. Grow a few greens in a pot, buy locally grown food or learn to cook some simple meals from scratch. Start small and see where it takes you. The rewards of being healthier, saving money and having tastier food far outweighs the extra time you will spend. For me freshly picked produce and a home cooked meal is truly one of the joys on life.
What are some of the ways you are making healthy food choices – for you, our society and the planet as a whole?
You can find out more about our local, sustainable food systems here.
View food events coming up at the Adelaide Sustainability Centre here.
10 tips for eating locally and cutting the energy used to produce your food.
Eco-Friendly Food Challenge – This 4 week challenge will take you through the steps to shop and eat in an eco-friendly way. All the steps are laid out, so you can do it in your own time frame too.