Get to know your food

I was recently asked to prepare a 2 minute TED style presentation about a global issue that I’m passionate about and I chose food choices.

I started to think we should look at all of our food and ask a few questions to get to know the story behind it, just like we would in a relationship.

Is it well travelled?

I just learnt that what I eat is likely to have travelled more than I have in a whole year. According to www.eta.co.uk 95% of fruit and half of the vegetables we eat in the UK is imported. This is because we like to eat seasonal food all year round, we like to eat processed food and we like it all as cheap as possible.

This isn’t great for the environment but it also affects the quality of the food.

Is it giving you what you need?

bananas-header

Unlike people, food that’s well travelled tend to lose everything that’s good about it. A lot of the nutrients are lost either through time, or through the chemicals used to give it a longer shelf life or quicker production (think pesticides for plants and antibiotics or hormones for animals).

Sometimes fruit is picked way before it should be (hello green bananas) because it needs to travel so far. So we’re not even eating food that tastes the way it’s supposed to taste.

If we’re eating processed food it’s probably packed with loads of nasty ingredients that can impact our physical and mental health – such as refined sugars and hormones. This could lead to mood swings and energy slumps, and no one really wants those.

Is it tidy?

How much waste is this food producing? Does it clean up after itself or does it leave things everywhere for someone else to pick up (like plastics in our ocean)?

Take a look at all of the packaging involved in all of the ingredients used in your meal. If we’re not eating locally the chances are that your food has been packaged in plastic. Plasticoceans.org says that we’re producing nearly 300 million tons of plastic every year and over half of this is single use, like straws*.

What are the parents like?

Who made your food and what’s their story? It’s good to know that the people or animals that helped to give you this food have had a happy life. Are the farmers getting paid enough and do they have equal rights? Is the chicken or cow that gave you the eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt or meat having a healthy life?

It might not be easy to ask these questions every time you eat, but I’ve found that companies or people that are doing things right are really happy to talk about it. I’ve just started to only eat organic meat and as a result I’m having some great conversations about where the farm is that my sausage came from. It’s always good to do a background check on your sausage!

The checklist

To summarise, here are the areas that I think are worth considering when you choose your meal:

  1. Health
    Is there anything good missing or anything bad added that could lead to you becoming unwell? (imported, seasonal, chemicals and hormones)
  2. Environment
    Is the packaging, travel and production causing a problem for the planet? (imported, seasonal, chemicals such as those in plastics and hormones)
  3. Welfare
    Is everyone involved in making it happy? (chemicals, fair trade, organic, seasonal)

Learn more

www.thesoilassociation.org aims to change the future of food and farming, look out for their label for certified organic produce.

www.fairtrade.org is a simple way to make a difference to the lives of people who make the things we love.

Visit www.worldslargestlesson.com for great ideas for teachers, but also lesson plans that might be able to teach you something (this is where I learnt a lot about what to ask of our food).

www.webmd.com has some interesting information about the health effects of what goes into our food.

* I have a personal issue with straws, if you want to know where this started (and potentially get scarred for life) just watch this horrible video of a turtle having a straw removed from it’s nose. WARNING: This video contains some strong language and footage of an animal in distress.

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