A lot seems uncertain at the moment. With the trajectory of the coronavirus pandemic in South Africa there are so many questions. Will we come out of this a more compassionate society? Will businesses survive? Will the economy recover?
What is still certain is that people must eat. What people eat, where they get their food from or what type of food they eat is a matter of preference for some but not all. Therefore, if you are able to change any one of these things, we encourage you to.
As we contemplate our next meal, let’s consider ways of eating for a healthy planet and reducing our food footprint. Here are some simple ideas to try.
1. Buy local (community based)
Benefits derived from buying from a local business far surpasses shopping from a big national chain. There is compelling evidence to show that when consumers buy from a local business, the money stays in that community and helps to build the local economy. When it comes to food, one gets to know the person who bakes their bread, the farmer who grows their weekly supply of fresh produce or the person who harvested your honey. You decide if the way they produce your food resonates with you and further supports your value system. More than ever, we really need to boost our economy in South Africa.
2. Buy organic products where possible
While many may be put off by seeing the same produce for a whole season, we can try to find ways of making it exciting by exploring different recipes and flavours. Eating in-season produce boosts our nutrient intake which helps to support our immune system and avoid seasonal sickness like allergies. Growing food organically also helps the earth as there are limited soil and water contamination or greenhouse gas emissions in organic farming. Our best choice for reducing your food footprint? Grow your own!
3. Reduce meat and fish in your diet
While some people can’t live without meat, cutting down is encouraged. More and more evidence points to the negative environmental impact in the process of taking meat from farm to fork. For example, more land is needed to farm animals than plants, leading to deforestation. The same with fish. According to the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI), unsustainable fishing practices have left fish stocks dangerously depleted and ecosystems altered, which jeopardises several marine species. See the SASSI Green (best choice) list here.
4. Reduce food waste
Buying only what we need is the best way to minimise our food waste and food footprint. Make a food list before you go shopping. Check the pantry to see what you have or don’t have to avoid over-buying. Use food leftovers wisely by making smoothies, baked goods or soups, or simply freeze food for later use. To avoid filling up landfills, create a compost heap or take back your food waste to the farm you buy your produce from.
5. Eco-conscious products
Finally, support businesses that are environmentally conscious. Now more than ever, a lot of businesses are consciously creating clothes, footwear, cosmetics and other household goods. Using materials that have been sourced ethically, you can pretty much find anything in a “green” alternative. These products are usually local, plastic-free and have a low carbon emission footprint.
What has been a humbling experience despite all the uncertainty is seeing food experts, activists, researchers and civil society groups come together to find ways of ensuring that vulnerable communities are able to eat balanced and nutritious meals from their local farmers. Despite the crisis created by the lockdown particularly when it comes to food, these individuals have kept true to seeing a sustainable food system created for South Africa.