Yesterday was ‘World Food Day’, a day celebrated each year to mark the foundation of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations in 1945. The day itself was established in 1979 and since 1981 it has adopted a different theme each year so as to highlight where action is needed and provide a common focus for governments, businesses, NGOs, ministries, universities, campaign groups, individuals, and so on. The themes have included things like food security, rural poverty, women in agriculture, nutrition, and sustainable food systems. 2016’s theme is climate change: ‘Climate is changing: Food and agriculture must too’.
I celebrated ‘World Food Day’ a little early by attending not one but two events on Saturday which are both very close to my heart. One of these events highlights the significant problem that we have with food waste, and the other promotes slow food. Despite these differences, both have one thing in common: the notion that food is for everyone and should be shared and enjoyed together. How this relates to 2016’s theme for World Food Day I will come back to at the end of this post, but first I would like to tell you a bit about both of these events.
Utilise Social Kitchen is a social enterprise set up by an Enactus team at Loughborough University in February 2016. It is part of the Real Junk Food Project network which uses perfectly edible food that supermarkets and other commercial businesses would have otherwise thrown away to produce hearty meals for the community.
The Social Kitchen takes place at Fearon Hall in Loughborough, everyone is welcome, and payment for the meals is on a ‘pay as you feel’ basis whereby you pay what you think the meal is worth, or indeed what you can afford. Initially every three weeks, from November the Social Kitchen will take place each Saturday between 12.00 and 13.30.
This Saturday, Fearon Hall celebrated ‘Social Saturday’ and the Social Kitchen was joined by Action volunteers from Loughborough University, and two local social enterprises. Our local MP even stopped by for a meal. The next cafe is on the 22nd October alongside a talk by Transition Loughborough about Potato Day, and on the 29th, in the lead up to Halloween, Utilise are running a special ‘Pumpkin Rescue’ event in collaboration with Hubbub and Love Food Hate Waste.
The Fruit Routes were developed by a local artist, Anne-Marie Culhane, and are managed by the sustainability team at Loughborough University as part of their ‘Eat Your Campus’ project. In 2012 76 trees, 25 fruit bushes and 285 hedgerow whips were planted around campus. Many of these are now coming into their own and one of the key events each year is the autumn apple harvest. Students, staff, the children at the campus nursery, and people from the local community all join in harvesting and sharing the apples. The week ends with a guided tour of the fruit routes, various apple-related events, apple pressing by Transition Loughborough, and the Great Apple Bake-Off. Year round anyone is free to forage the fruit routes for things like apples, pears, cherries, apricots, almonds and more!
Climate is changing: Food and agriculture must too.
Food waste is a global issue and one that is currently dominating the media. It has social, economic and environmental connotations. It is not right to say we need more land to feed the growing world population when an estimated 30-50% of food produced is wasted annually, over 700 million people are classified obese, and 925 million people worldwide are undernourished. Rather, it is better to look at each stage of the supply chain and see where and why things are going wrong. The pressure of consumption has depleted the nutrients in the land so that many areas have very few harvests left in them, which means an ever-increasing reliance on chemical fertilisers. Dumping food waste in landfill causes not just methane, a greenhouse gas that is a significant contributor to global warming, but also contamination of groundwaters and soil, and pollution of the local environment. If food is wasted it is vital to direct this away from landfill and through more sustainable channels where it’s value and energy can be used, if not by humans, then by animals or to produce power or nutrients that can be returned to the earth.
Slow food is food that has been prepared with care using local, high-quality, seasonal ingredients. The benefits of this for combating climate change are vast: for example, local food = less transport = less pollution and need for fuel; and seasonal = less resource intensive farming to grow things out of season, or less air miles to transport produce from overseas. Slow food also tries to save and reintroduce endangered food back to their local environments. One particularly important element, to me at least, is that projects like the Fruit Routes, and others around the country that follow similar ideas and principles, teach people how to enjoy food and appreciate where it comes from and what it went through to get onto their plate. And hopefully this understanding and awareness will ensure it fills their stomachs and not their bins.