A billion kilos of potatoes that’s suddenly ‘left over’, farmers and local producers who are going bust whilst supermarkets’ profits are through the roof and crops that can’t be harvested because of the absence of migrant workers: the corona virus points out what’s going wrong in our food system. This is how we can use the crisis to radically change course.
Because of the absence of events, the closing of restaurants and a lack of seasonal workers, an incredible amount of food is being wasted as we speak. Everywhere around the world, farmers are seeing perfectly fine produce rot in the fields and are forced to wash their ‘excess’ dairy down the drain.
However, in normal times, food waste puts a massive strain on the earth as well. An estimated third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which comes down to 1.3 billion tonnes per year. If food waste was a country, it would be the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gasses.
More trouble in food paradise
But food waste isn’t the only systemic error in our food system that’s surfacing at the moment. Because food chains are falling apart in all sorts of ways, we’ve come to realise how complex and vulnerable our food system really is. In addition, monocultures and the bio-industry are inflicting great damage to natural ecosystems. And it’s that natural destruction that has enabled the corona virus to spread from an animal to rest of the world in the first place.
The fact that more people are now catching on to these and many other food-related issues offers reason for hope. Everywhere around the world, consumers are rediscovering the value of fresh, healthy, seasonal and local produce. And of a sustainable and reliable food system in general. Because of this, there is no better time for radical change than… now!
Future of food
The food system of the future is healthy, just, local, regenerative and free of waste. But how do we get there? Amongst other things, by setting the following five transitions in motion. Are you in?
1) Reduce the distance from farm to fork
Transitioning towards shorter food chains has many benefits. For starters, it dramatically reduces food miles, enables people to connect with their food and stimulates them to eat with the seasons. In addition, by taking away costly middlemen, farmers are able to earn a fair wage without having to overcharge the consumer.
Ready to support your local food system? Here are a few things you can do:
- Shop directly at your local farmer or pay a visit to the farmers’ market
- Buy your bread, cheese, beer, milk, olives, wine, hummus, nuts, meat and other goodies at local producers or pay a visit to a supermarket like HISBE in England: a rebellious social enterprise that sells local, seasonal, just and regenerative food
- Prefer to shop from home? Order a grocery box that’s filled with products from your local area
2) From destructive to regenerative
Did you know that regenerative farms boost biodiversity, grow fertile soils and capture CO2 instead of emitting it? In addition, farms that work together with nature don’t use pesticides or artificial fertilisers, which has many benefits, amongst them preventing ground water pollution. So plenty of reason to transition from destructive to regenerative for once and for all.
This is how you can contribute to a regenerative food system:
- Fill your fridge with produce from an organic, biodynamic or regenerative farm like Ridgedale Farm in Sweden or Limestone Permaculture Farm in Australia
- Challenge yourself to buy as many organic and biodynamic products as possible. Because once you start looking at the true cost of food, you’ll soon discover that organic isn’t overpriced, but regular is way too cheap
3) Reconnect consumers and producers
At the moment, many of us are merely passive consumers within the food system. Because of this, we’re dependent on big producers and corporate supermarket chains. In addition, it’s often unclear how our food is being produced, and what the consequences of that production process are for people, animals and nature. By taking back control, we can restore our connection to food and create a transparent system that’s just for all parties involved.
Sounds good? This is how to get started:
- Become a member of a food cooperative or a community supported agriculture program such as De Stadsgroenteboer in The Netherlands
- Shop at a cooperative supermarket like the London Food-Coop
- Keen to grow your own food? Start a vegetable garden or join a local permaculture project
4) Waste no more
A circular world in which safe and healthy food is no longer wasted, everything gets used and loops are closed: that’s where we’re heading. In order to get there, we need governments, farmers, cultivators, restaurants and supermarkets to step up their game.
But there’s lots you can do as well:
- Don’t go to the grocery store without a shopping list, check your pantry, store food in the right manner, cherish leftovers, share big portions and preserve. That way, you’ll never find yourself throwing away food again
- Support entrepreneurs like Odd Box, Food Forward and The Ketchup Project, who actively contribute to a more circular world
5) You are what you eat
When it comes down to food, we often choose quick and easy over fresh and healthy. Many diseases of affluence – such as heart diseases and type 2 diabetes – are caused by this unhealthy lifestyle. Once ill, most of us reach for pills, instead of treating diseases and symptoms with good food. Let’s transfer from processed and unhealthy to fresh and healthy food, both on a collective and individual level.
This is what you can do from your own kitchen:
- Go for unprocessed and fresh food. Feel like eating biscuits? Make them from scratch! That way, you’re sure that they’re free of sugar, fat and other crap. Moreover, making things yourself will save you money. Money that you can spend on…
- …organic groceries! Fruit and vegetables get their nutrients from the soil they’re in. Because of crop rotation, organic soils are richer in nutrients, vitamins and minerals. In addition, no pesticides are used, which has all sorts of benefits for your health. So next time you’re in the supermarket: don’t panic and just choose organic
- Many of us eat way too many animal products. By going for more plant-based meals, the planet, the animals AND your own body will thank you later