Today, the 16th of October, is World Food Day 2015. We’re taking this opportunity to reflect on the food we eat – our daily meals, what we take for granted, and those sneaky treats. The global food system is vast and is the biggest employer in the world, so a lot of time, energy, and care has gone into feeding you.
To mark World Food Day 2015, we’re asking everyone to pay attention to where your food has come from and reflect on the amount of work and resources that have gone into providing that food. Food is essential to maintain life so many of us take it for granted that we will have three meals per day, but for others, access to food is not so reliable.
Here in East Sussex a lot of the ingredients in the food we eat have been imported from other countries around the world and this is typical of Western diets. There are many stages required to provide you with your daily meals, snacks and treats. From land preparation and cultivation, to harvesting and processing, to trading and marketing, to distribution and sale, to preparation and cooking, and many more processes or actors according to the type of food produce.
There are many people both locally and worldwide who skip parts of this food production system by either growing their own food or buying directly from the grower. Farmers markets are a regular feature of many UK towns and many farms have shops on-site to sell produce. There is an increasing demand for local produce throughout the Global North which is being stimulated by the demand for organic produce and the growing profile of the food sovereignty movement and environmental sustainability concerns.
Globally, there are around 500 million small-holder farmers and they provide up to 70% of the global food supply. In some areas of the world the majority of these small-holders are subsistence farming, growing food to feed their own family rather than sell. For example, in Sub-Saharan Africa up to 70% of small-holders are subsistence farmers. Small-holders are notoriously vulnerable to environmental, climatic, economic, and social shocks and stresses, making their food production often uncertain.
Meanwhile, in the Global North socio-economic disparities are growing and more people are becoming food insecure. In the UK this has been notable through the increase of people living in food poverty and rapidly growing demand for food banks. Although many think that food poverty is caused by a lack of money to buy food, there are multiple complex factors which interact including access to transport, physical and mental health, age, ‘food deserts’ and employment/unemployment. To complicate this further, the cheapest and most easily accessible food for those living in food poverty is often less nutritious and does not provide a healthy diet.
So today while you sit down to that coffee which was grown in Latin America or tea from Southern Asia, think about what you are eating, where it has come from, and how that fits into a food system which covers the whole world. To mark World Food Day 2015, celebrate the food you have.