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Food for thought

Wednesday, January 22, 2014    

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AS we settle into 2014 — which the United Nations has declared the International Year of Family Farming — no doubt thoughts about how much food was wasted over the holidays come to mind.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and its sister organisation the Food and Agriculture Organisation in their Think.Eat.Save — Reduce Your Foodprint campaign last year, revealed that one-third of all food produced each year, equivalent to 1.3 billion tonnes, is lost or wasted.

 Around 300 million tonnes of this – more than enough to feed the estimated 870 million people who face hunger each day across the globe – is discarded by producers, retailers and consumers. Much of it ends up on landfills, where it decomposes and releases the potent greenhouse gas methane.

  Not only that, but it would mean that the energy, water, fertilisers and land that went into the production would also have been wasted. Juxtapose this against the fact that there are still nearly one billion people suffering from hunger. Simultaneously, 65 per cent of the world’s population live in countries where obesity kills more people than those who are underweight.

  Fortunately, however, these are problems that we can solve, and the growing focus on food security issues — in Jamaica at least — provides some hope. To that end, here are 10 food resolutions for 2014:

1. Meet Your Local Farmer/Support Family Farmers

  Know your farmer, know your food (KYF2) aims to strengthen local and regional food systems. Meeting your local farmer puts a face to where your food comes from and creates a connection between farmers and consumers.

2. Eat Seasonal Produce

  By purchasing local foods that are in season, you can help reduce the environmental impact of shipping food. And your money goes straight to the farmer, supporting the local economy.

3. End Food Waste

  More than 1.3 billion tons of edible food is wasted each year. Tips to reduce waste include planning meals ahead, buying “ugly’’ fruits and vegetables, being more creative with recipes, requesting smaller portions, composting, and donating excess food.

4. Promote a Healthy Lifestyle

 Many diseases are preventable, including obesity, yet 1.5 billion people in the world are obese or overweight. Promote a culture of prevention by engaging in physical activity and following guidelines for a healthy diet. Gaps in food governance must also be addressed to encourage healthy lifestyles, including junk food marketing to children.

5. Commit to Resilience in Agriculture

  A large portion of food production is used for animal feed and biofuels — at least one-third of global food production is used to feed livestock. And land grabs are resulting in food insecurity, the displacement of small farmers, conflict, environmental devastation, and water loss. Strengthening farmers’ unions and cooperatives can help farmers be more resilient to food prices shocks, climate change, conflict, and other problems.

6. Buy (or Grow) Organic

 The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has found that at least one pesticide is in 67 per cent of produce samples in the US Studies suggest that pesticides can interfere with brain development in children and can harm wildlife, including bees. Growing and eating organic and environmentally sustainable produce we can help protect our bodies and natural resources.

7. Go Meatless Once a Week

 To produce 0.45 kilograms (one pound) of beef can require 6,810 litres (1,799 gallons) of water and 0.45 kilograms (one pound) of pork can require 2,180 litres (576 gallons) of water. Beef, pork, and other meats have large water footprints and are resource intensive. Consider reducing your “hoofprint” by decreasing the amount and types of meat you consume.

8. Cook

 In Michael Pollan’s book Cooked, he learns how the four elements — fire, water, air, and earth — transform parts of nature into delicious meals. And he finds that the art of cooking connects both nature and culture. Eaters can take back control of the food system by cooking more and, in the process, strengthen relationships and eat more nutritious — and delicious — foods.

9. Consider the ‘True Cost’ Of Your Food

  Based on the price alone, inexpensive junk food often wins over local or organic foods. But, the price tag doesn’t tell the whole story. True cost accounting allows farmers, eaters, businesses, and policymakers to understand the cost of all of the “ingredients” that go into making fast food —including antibiotics, artificial fertilisers, transportation, and a whole range of other factors that don’t show up in the price tag of the food we eat.

 — UNEP/Danielle Nierenberg

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