Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Do You Really Choose the Food You Buy? - Take Back Control.

There is a growing movement of food revolutionaries fighting to help you take back control of how we choose what we eat. 

You didn't know there was a fight to be had? Read on...

Who decides what food you buy for your family? Surely you do right? It is you that writes your shopping list picks items from the shelves and  place them in the trolley. But lift the lid of the products we choose  and it is much less clear who is choosing what we eat.

I've written before about the hidden contents of processed and packaged food, the sort of foods we trust  other people to prepare for us, particularly the big food manufacturers. Investigative journalist Joanna Blythman's book Swallow This sets out the stark reality of the questionable contents of much processed food.  Even with the protection of our own Food Standards Agency there are many ingredients in our food that have no food value yet are lawfully included solely for the purposes of making food easier to pass through machines, and therefore more profitable; and these processing aids do not need to be listed as ingredients.

Recently though, the worrying prospect of having less stringent food standards foisted on us as the result of post-Brexit trade deals has become a distinct possibility For example the US profit motive encourages  intensive farming systems many of us wouldn't endorse, and allow the use of pesticides that have been banned in Europe for some time.

This article in the Guardian newspaper explains how such a trade deal could have us importing food farmed in ways we disapprove of with chemicals we believe to be harmful. Yet if you eat processed food - tinned meat goods, or ready meals for example- you may well not know that your food comes from those sources.

Those of us with enough money may already be buying ourselves out of such worries by shopping ethically, buying fresh fruit and vegetables, and selecting organic produce. But where you have less cash there is even less choice: Buying food at the cheaper end of the price range means having less choice about where it comes from.

So we don't always have the choice we think.

Rooting and Fruiting, Todmorden,
Yorkshire
I recently discovered the Food Sovereignty movement, established by groups of third world farmers forced into near starvation when big business farming organisations made their small-scale farms unviable as businesses. By sharing resources and  knowledge,  and  working from the principle that farming should be primarily about feeding people rather than making money food producers are fighting back to make fresh food accessible and affordable for everyone.

In the UK we have our own Food Sovereignty movement  a sort or reaction to the temporary Food Bank solution that sometimes means people in food poverty are forced to eat poor quality food. Groups of allotment growers, guerrilla gardeners and other community minded food producers are forming a network of sustainable, local food producers whose motive is not solely individual profit.

Take a look at our own  projects in Oldham, or Salford's Incredible Edible and cross the border to Yorkshire to see the innovative Yorkshire mushroom growers at Rooting and Fruiting.  These vibrant growing communities are a world away from the large-scale globalised agri-giant organisations that try to convince us that our attitude to food production should be that it is best carried out at a distance by those that know best. I think we know better than that, don't we.

If you want a manifesto for taking back control of the food you choose here are some suggestions:

  • Buy food from people you can have a conversation with about where it comes from, and who can answer questions knowledgably and with interest
  • Try to shorten your food chains - buy food where there is only one or two steps between the person producer and yourself
  • Buy organic when you can. Organic meat is expensive - that will help us value it more: eat less but eat better.
  • Support your local growing organisations and Food Sovereignty organisations in person preferably - get involved.
  • Grow your own food and waste less - be creative about what you eat, use leftovers


Feel free to add your own suggestions - let's work together and take back control of the food we feed our families.