As we celebrate World Food Day, let’s look at the reasons for having a healthy, sustainable diet in three easy steps.
We’re all part of the global food system. The food choices I make are linked to the activities and choices available to the world’s family farmers who are at the core of this system. But, we rarely think about the global food system when we’re at the shops.
Yet on a day as today – World Food Day 2014: ‘Family Farming: feeding the world, caring for the earth’ – we have the opportunity to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
Food is at the heart of many environmental issues and LiveWell for LIFE is driven by a desire to develop a sustainable food system for healthy people and a healthy planet. A healthy, sustainable diet is integral to this, and adopting it is really as easy as 1-2-3.
1. The food choices I make have an impact on the planet
Growing, producing and importing food contributes substantially to climate change. It’s a driving force behind habitat and biodiversity loss – much of the land now used for agriculture was once home to wildlife. Between 1990 and 2008, the European consumption of crops for feed and pastures for grazing led to the loss of at least 5.2 million hectares of forest. That’s an area almost twice the size of Belgium.
Agriculture is also a huge drain on water resources. Food production has a massive effect on freshwater resources and habitats either through direct abstraction for irrigation or pollution with leached fertilisers from farm lands.
2. The food choices I make have an impact on people
We know we only have one world, yet if everyone were to live as an average European, we would need 2.6 planets to sustain us. This puts not only an enormous stress on our planet but also on people across the globe.
The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 842 million people worldwide are undernourished. The vast majority live in the developing world. The impacts of climate change – sea level rise, droughts, heat waves, floods and rainfall variation – could push another 600 million people into malnutrition by 2080.
Hunger and poverty can push people to unsustainable use of resources to meet their needs. If we fail to address this we risk poverty and climate impact reinforcing each other.
3. The food choices I make have an impact on me
There’s a huge imbalance in the global food system. Whereas 12 percent of the global population are undernourished, more than 1.4 billion people worldwide are overweight due to excessive calorie consumption.
The rise in obesity is inextricably linked to the worldwide adoption of a Western diet. This diet – which is high in meat, dairy, and fat, salt and sugar – is a main contributor to health problems such as type 2 diabetes which is one of the best indicators of poor dietary health. Diabetes figures have doubled between 1990 and 2010 – and experts warn it is on a path to double again in the next 20 years!
So, it’s clear that we’re paying for the food we eat in more ways than one.
But, many of us can make different food choices. We can make a positive impact on the global food system. By making some surprisingly simple tweaks to our daily eating choices we can improve our health and the health of the planet – and help ensure that small-scale producers are at the heart of a sustainable food system.
 European Commission, 2013. The impact of EU consumption on deforestation: Comprehensive analysis of the impact of EU consumption on deforestation http://ec.europa.eu/environment/forests/pdf/1.%20Report%20analysis%20of%20impact.pdf
 2008 figure – WHO Obesity and overweight, Fact sheet N°311 Updated August 2014 http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs311/en/