New campaign to drive change in food systems

A campaign to promote wider citizen participation in food systems and offer greater transparency over food sources has been launched by Inclusive Food.

This new movement for collective action is spearheaded by UK researchers, Dr Anne Touboulic and Dr Lucy McCarthy, based at the University of Nottingham and the University of Bristol.

Their campaign seeks to address critical sustainability concerns in food production and consumption. It also aims to spur a fundamental rethinking of food supply chains, and how they connect consumers, big food producers and farmers.

Climate research shows that agriculture is directly responsible for 8.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions, with a further 14.5% coming from land use change, and 80% of deforestation attributed to land clearance for food.

Long supply chains and a reliance on produce which is out of season, or has been heavily processed, is further increasing the devastating impact of current food production and consumption practices.

Dr Touboulic is an associate professor at the University of Nottingham, and a core member of the Food Systems Institute, an interdisciplinary centre for food research.

She says, “Food is essential to everyone, but the way our food systems promote over-production and over-consumption is not. Our current food systems are organised in a way which is deeply damaging both ecologically, and to those whose labour is involved at different stages of the food chain.

“In addition, the forces of globalisation and industrialisation have irreversibly shifted the way food is produced, consumed, and organised. Through our campaign, we’re aiming to equip citizens with the knowledge to help them make informed decisions about where their food is from, so they can be empowered to help make a change.”

Inclusive Food believes transforming food supply chains is critical for reaching the UK’s carbon reduction targets, as well as for developing systems that will cope with the damage already caused to the Earth.

Co-founder Dr McCarthy is a senior lecturer at the University of Bristol, a core member of the Food Justice Network and a member of the Sustainable Production & Consumption and Inclusive Economy and Action Research and Critical Inquiry in Organisations research groups.

She added: “We›ve come to rely on extended food supply chains. In the UK for instance, we import a significant amount of food from locations that are already being disproportionately affected by climate change, which in part results in significant decreases in food productivity.

“For example, Spain produces most of the fruits and vegs consumed across Europe, but it is already being disrupted by changing weather patterns, and it is estimated that crop yields will decrease by a further 15 – 30% as global temperatures increase.

“Growing food more locally and in a wider range of places will help to compensate for the damage that is already happening, while also reducing further impact.

“Research from the Food and Agricultural Organisation shows that over 90% of crop varieties in the farming industry have been lost over the last century, a decline that’s linked to large scale farming.

“Many of the remaining crops are energy dense and high in caloric values but depleted of vitamins and nutrients. And although this has short term benefits for increased yields, it increases the environmental cost of growing food, as ecosystems are altered to suit the limited variety of crops.”

The new movement hopes to empower people to move away from ultra-processed diets to help lower the energy and overall environmental cost, while also shifting from a food system largely controlled by large corporations. This includes harnessing the power of simpler diets with less ultra processed foods where possible, as well as fewer calories, which can help to improve wellbeing and help the environment.

Dr Touboulic added, “Sometimes as citizens, we can feel powerless or unsure of where to start to drive change and that’s okay. A good place to start can be as simple as asking those important questions about what you eat, and where it comes from.

“It’s down to all of us to encourage large retailers to source more locally and to take responsibility and accountability for their own actions. It is only through collective action and engagement that we can create changes that encourage more sustainable food supply chains.”

Previous articleTop firms write open letter urging ACTION ON FOOD WASTE
Next articlePork labelling schemes not helping buyers make informed choices