By Sovina Taneja and Roddy Denness
The same way in which tomato soup reminds you of the flu, canned coffee reminds you of finals season or corona beer reminds you of the summer of 2020 - we are constantly building connections with food.
What we do not quite easily acknowledge on a daily basis is that food in-turn, is connected to many places, people and perhaps even other foods.
Your canned tomato soup may have travelled on four airplanes to get to you from, say, Germany where it was canned by workers in a factory. The tomatoes themselves may have been flown across from Spain, where local farmers harvested them. And here you are, sitting in London or Hong Kong enjoying it and thinking about what it reminds you of.
Behold, the journey of Tommy the Tomato
On the daily, we just don’t think about it as much. Or at least, we hadn’t thought about it until last year. Because of COVID-19 related labor shortages, all of a sudden certain goods, like garlic, were hard to find, and when you could, they were pretty expensive. Empty shelves, food shortages and drastic price increases made us realise that we rely on a fragile supply chain and that the balance on which it was previously working had been disrupted.
For a whole year now, we’ve been rallying together with the main focus to prevent rising deaths from the pandemic and assisting already vulnerable communities like refugees that are plunging into even worse living conditions. In this process, we’ve also had to come up with solutions to concerns regarding mental health during this uncertain time - making this a real time to spark a conversation about slowing down and supporting one another. And on top of all of this, yes, there’s more - we are seeing reports of the unintended consequences of lockdown like the difficulties of maintaining a healthy lifestyle such as rising levels of obesity.
Take a moment to stop…...and simply understand that everything is linked. What is going to be the next butterfly effect? How are we going to respect & solidify the interconnectedness of food systems?
How can we become more sophisticated in how we address food systems?
Livin Farms always comes in hot with the solutions: because the solution was under our noses all along - it’s the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), they can help.
Just in case you miss-plac-ed our last episode of Misplaced (sorry, bad joke), and are wondering what these SDG thingies are, we’re happy to help out. There are in fact 17 goals that the United Nations put together with the aim to end poverty and protect our planet, ensuring that we can enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.
“The 17 SDGs are integrated - that is, they recognize that action in one area will affect outcomes in others”
Let’s break it down further. Take SDG 14 - ‘Life below water’ - as an example: Think of a fisherman, let’s name him Karl - his only source of income is catching fish everyday with his family. He wakes up early every morning, takes his boat out and catches his fish for the day. This is a necessity for him and his family, although Monroe is quite unaware of the effect that fishing has on the biodiversity in that particular area. And look, now there’s a massive salmon shortage in his town, no more eggs Benedict for anybody.
Alternatively, access to school determines whether or not individuals are exposed to the idea of a balanced diet for good health and nutrition. At the same time, you need to be healthy and well fed to reap the benefits of education and grow into a well-rounded person.
The UN also recognizes that action in one area will affect outcomes in others.
More recently, we have also seen some interesting examples of how one can turn negative natural events into something positive. East Africa witnessed scary locust swarms towards the end of 2020. But now, a Kenyan NGO has begun training local farmers to capture these swarms into high value, high protein feed for farm animals including fish, chicken and pigs. It’s pretty cool because they’re addressing two problems at once: Zero Hunger (SDG2) and Responsible consumption and production (SDG12).
This example is close to our hearts. We also believe that insects are the solution. While we may not address food security directly, we are providing more sustainable proteins while tackling the travesty that is food waste. If you’re interested in learning more about how insects can be turned into feed, you are just in luck because here at Livin Farms, our industrial-side is advancing a more sustainable and circular food and feed production.
“The way we produce and eat food will determine if we achieve the global goals”
The first challenge is, we don’t always agree on what to do about food.
In true Shakespearan fashion, we’ve seen people dramatically exclaiming over the thought of eating insects. And although they are entitled to their own opinion, some countries including Thailand, Mexico, China, Brazil and Japan all enjoy the odd grasshopper and mealworm.
I mean, I wouldn’t complain if you gave me a delicious bowl of mealworm fried rice. Nonetheless, let’s be respectful to each other's dietary preferences, because they give us our sense of belonging. Think of the last time you met an international friend, and they cooked for you their homeland delicacy. Food gives us pride, stories to tell, new memories to make.
Inspired by Hamlet, (Act 3, Scene 1) by William Shakespeare
Despite these differences, we’d actually like to show you that we all have one thing in common. We all want what is called Good Food.
What do we want? GOOD FOOD! When do we want it? NOW!
Good food is the foundation of everything we do, it brings us together, it makes us or breaks us. Without it, no other progress is possible.
Good Food is a balance and a process. Good food begins with Farmers, Good food is Nutritious and good food Save Lives. However, good food is Vulnerable to Disruption and is not always a Choice; it Powers People and Economies and makes Progress possible. P.S. Good food is also Love.
Good Food is at least seven things, the SDGs are at least 17 areas, the deadline is in 2030. All these numbers flying around are getting us worried and confused, where do I start?
Paul gave us a simple enough solution to our worries: look at what Science is and has been telling us all along - which is that we need to maintain a more diverse diet for both the health of ourselves and the planet. This four cheese pizza for lunch, beef burger for dinner, strawberry cheesecake for dessert with some extra whipped cream stuff isn’t going to cut it my friends.
Nutrition Science can be imperfect, there’s a lot of debate going on there because one group might tell you that “Meat causes cancer!” but the other will argue that “Meat gives you vitamin B12!”. We’d like to just take you straight to the facts, which are that regardless of the diet that you choose to adopt, consistent evidence supports the fact that plant-based, whole food (your fruit, veggies, grains & nuts) are definitely a big yes to minimizing those big bad diseases, keeping you on track towards a healthy long life. Should you choose to responsibly eat livestock, eggs, milk and the like - you do you.
And how do we get to Good Food?
There are many key players when it comes to this journey. The main thing that we learned today is that food is related to a lot of things, hence all of us have a role to play.
The SDG2 Advocacy Hub started with one main player: the Chef. Chefs play an important role in shaping our diet and eating habits. They are the creatives of food, bring us innovative edible ideas and, most importantly, set trends. The idea was that building a community of world-wide chefs would help equip us with simple actions that can drive progress towards a healthier food system for all. Think of it this way: chefs can teach us to respect our food, with reduced waste yet provide us with enjoyable nutritious meals.
Through the Chefs Manifesto, the Hub created a framework in the form of a simple document which shows us, from their point of view, how chefs can directly contribute towards the SDGs themselves. They wanted it to be ‘by chefs, for chefs’ and drew upon inspiring and real experiences with 100+ chefs from 36 countries on board contributing to this process. Download the Action Plan here.
Next in line are corporations and businesses: they have the size and resources to make significant changes to the food supply chain. Remember Tommy the Tomato? Corporations can do their part to ensure he doesn’t have to travel across two countries to get to his final destination.
Kellogg’s Origins projects help farmers implement sustainable agriculture practices so we can responsibly source the ingredients that go into some of our delicious foods.
You know what they told us in elementary school: there’s no I in TEAM
It is important not to worry yourself, because sometimes only the smallest of shifts can ripple across and create a large effect!
Call to Action 1 - Educate yourself
The Future 50 Foods are a great way to get started. They are 50 foods that have been researched to be healthy for both people and the planet. As the document highlights, we can actually EAT to improve the food system.
For instance, you could be getting crazy nutrient benefits from fonio or spelt (no worries, we also had to google them) instead of eating your typical white rice - and you are making our food supply more resilient via agrobiodiversity.
Keen on adopting a diet of alternative proteins after you heard about our mealworm fried rice? Read about how the EU has deemed mealworms safe for human consumption.
Don’t know where to get started on your culinary adventure? Check out our cooking lesson here.
Call to Action 2 - Make small shifts
Remember that healthy plant-based diet we were lecturing you about earlier? Here’s a good time to put it to practice. Try switching out a proportion of meat for vegetables instead. Occasionally, you can even start replacing animal protein with plant-based protein if you’re worried about losing out on your gains.
And hey, you can learn about climate smart changes to be made in your diet. Eat what’s in season, because this way, you are being able to consume what is being produced locally, cutting down that nasty supply chain.
Call to Action 3 - Advocate
Influence people around you to make a change
And if you think you’re ready after all that groundwork, you could join the UN Food Systems Summit - taking place throughout the year. It’s a people’s summit, open for input, conversations and dialogues.
Or tune-in to an episode of Misplaced by Livin Farms, teaching you the basics of the Food System.
Become a #FoodHero!