Food security. It appears that some people are already stocking up on food supplies in preparation for a potential no deal Brexit. Is this a responsible thing to do? Will we truly experience any food shortages? Or will we create them? Do you think this may well be the right time to talk about where our food comes from? Should we talk about how much we waste, how much we truly need and whether we should grow more food ourselves?
Will the ‘just in time’ model come back to haunt us?
In 2019 Britain’s food industry operates largely on a just in time model. No one stockpiles masses of food in warehouses. At any one time tomorrow food is actually on the motorway and rarely piled high in supermarkets. You only have to experience a super snow scenario to see how quickly supplies can dwindle. Is it time to discuss food security? The problem is perhaps that we have been too insulated when it comes to worrying about where our next meal might come from. CNN rather dramatically suggests that food shortages could hit within days of no-deal Brexit.
Economic, environmental and well being choices have to be made
This is the part that people are not discussing. Do we really need thousands of continental lorries trundling up our motorway system with bags of salad leaves? Actually on average we waste about 40% and that equates to around 170 million bags. That’s quite a number of lorries being driven every year for no gain. Think of the resources, time and effort put into those 170 million bags and for what? It’s almost as if we have lulled ourselves into unthinking shopping patterns as we fill our fridge and cupboards with items we simply don’t need. Is food security something we can tackle individually by a change of lifestyle?
Do you buy without thinking?
We all buy for the sake of it. My father used to grab a bag of sugar every single week and I could never work out why. We had so many in the cupboard we could have built a wall, especially as after a while they go solid! His other ‘must haves’ were tinned peaches and peas along with sachets of Angel Delight!
Our lack of care will affect us all
When we don’t shop mindfully we don’t stop and think about what we really need. We often put things in our trolleys with little thought to its carbon footprint or if we really will eat those trimmed Kenyan beans. People who watch ‘Eat Well for Less’ on the BBC will have watched how some families fall into cycles of over buying. Isn’t it time we stopped those kinds of behaviours? Isn’t it this lack of care that will ultimately affect food security?
Can we eat better by buying and wasting less?
The government has just appointed the very first official food surplus and waste champion. Excellent. It’s a step but couldn’t we all be our very own waste champions? Go into the freezer, fridge, store cupboards and pantries and do an audit of what you already have. When’s the last time you ever got to the back of some of the cupboards? If you didn’t shop for a whole 14 days, apart from milk or other perishable items what interesting meals could you cook? It’s an experiment I’ve tried and ironically I eat so much better.
Do we need to review our approach with respect to future food security?
Bearing in mind obesity is apparently the ‘new smoking’ shouldn’t we welcome a few food shortages and think more carefully about we put into our mouths? We rarely consider where our food comes from and how much it costs us to throw it away. Many people never experience any hunger pangs at all and simply top up when they fancy something. Isn’t it time this Brexit malarkey makes us reappraise our attitude and approach to food in every respect including food security?
Is shopping local good for food security?
Furthermore, what would happen if we did try to support our local farmers and accepted the lean months where fresh food is scarce and right now is usually augmented by imports? Wouldn’t that mean the arrival of fresh UK spinach, lettuces and asparagus would taste much sweeter? We would be more in touch with the seasons. Eating seasonally we introduce more variety into our diets. Some of us may consume a lot but are we actually any healthier as a consequence? The increase in Type 2 Diabetes might suggest we are not.
- How selfish is it to stockpile food?
- Is it very egocentric?
- What about people who cannot afford to stockpile?
- What do they do when shelves are empty?
- Should we change our approach and include more social eating opportunities?
- Should we cook and share with neighbours and friends?
- Should we shop a little more frugally and ensure the cupboards are almost bare before we fill them again?
Ben Elliot, food waste champion suggests that food waste is morally wrong when some families struggle to feed themselves. What do you think?
Surely we could think carefully about what the UK should be producing. We might consider whether an increase in productivity, further investment and mechanization might make us more self-sufficient. Perhaps this is the opportunity where we start caring instead of shutting our eyes to how our food is produced and where it comes from.
Do we need a new UK Food Strategy?
Did you realise the last time the UK seriously thought about food security as a nation was back in 1941 when the Second World War seriously disrupted supplies? Since rationing finally ended in the late 1950s our relationship with food has grown more distant. During the war people were encouraged to Dig for Victory. Flowers were removed and wherever food could be grown seeds etc. were planted. In fact the war changed nutrition.
Worryingly, aren’t we seduced by food that looks perfect and can be consumed with minimum effort? Would it be so wrong for there to be less to buy? Would it be wrong for us to use more energy by growing our own where it’s possible. There are still many allotments unused and unloved. But impact would that have on an economy that relies on us spending money?
Finally, could we take some responsibility for the production of food ourselves? Everyone talks about the impasse the government has created so surely if people in power are incapable of making decisions we can get on and feed ourselves. What’s your opinion on all this? You can read a food research paper on how local authorities should tackle Brexit right here.
Vivienne Neale writes for Good Food Doncaster but does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the organisation. She is a writer, business owner and Trustee for Good Food Doncaster.
Tickets cost £10 and include: refreshments and lunch and are available form the box office. All are welcome. The day will be a mixture of keynotes and seminars about topics you want to discuss. Don’t miss out! Meanwhile check out Dr Michael Moseley’s talk at CAST on the same day at 7.30