"We have two great comforts here – excellent bread and pure sparkling spring water." Catherine’s letter to Cecilia Marmion, Baggot St, 1841
“The wonderful thing about food is you get three votes a day. Every one of them has the potential to change the world”. – Michael Pollan
Choosing what we eat is something most of us are lucky enough to do at least three times a day. As Michael Pollan states, with each meal we have an opportunity to vote to change the world. With World Food Day approaching on October 16, this is a great opportunity for us to stop and reflect on our choices.
Our Mercy Institute sustainability policy statement, An Integrated Approach to Sustainable Living, urges us to educate ourselves about the impacts of our everyday lives. It states: ‘This knowledge is vital if we are to care for our common home, “a care which breaks with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness”.’ (Pope Francis: Eighth Work of Mercy).
As Elizabeth Young rsm wrote in her article entitled ‘Compassionate consumption’, “our daily bread is a concise summation of the gifts of water, sun, earth, nutrients and human labour. Each mouthful is a blessing, but also a taking of the earth’s resources that may involve long food miles, slave labour or needless harm to animals.”
Our food choices fall under three key areas of focus in the Institute policy statement: Procurement, Transport and Waste. Our consumption, linked to our economic growth model, is called into question when we consider the ethical implications (both for people and planet) involved in the procurement, mileage and waste involved in what we eat.
Five ways you can change the world with your fork:
1. If you can, grow your own! You’ll have easy access to fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs straight from your garden, porch or kitchen. By growing our own we can produce it organically and pick it as we need it. Growing some of your own vegetables doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply throwing in some spinach or lettuce seeds, having a few tomato plants or herbs in pots is a great start. Find out more about Rahamim's Grow Your Own Course here
3. Choose foods that have been farmed in the most humane way. Factory farming of animals for food is on the increase as countries that traditionally ate a mostly vegetarian diet are demanding more meat, and the economies of developed countries incentivise growth and profit and the minimisation of costs. This is achieved at the expense of the animal’s wellbeing and natural behaviour. Learn more about humane choices here.
4. Choose food that supports a sustainable agriculture system. Large scale, imported, factory farmed food is contributing to climate change. Specifically, livestock production has been found to significantly contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that livestock production is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, while other studies put the figure closer to 51%. Either way, livestock production contributes a bigger share of greenhouse gas emissions than the entire global transport sector. Also, think about the packaging; can it be recycled or composted?
5. Choose Fairtrade. Fairtrade is about stable prices, decent working conditions and the empowerment of farmers and workers around the world. Many of the items we consume everyday are grown, picked and processed by people in other countries. Goods such as chocolate, coffee, cotton, gold, tea and vanilla are just a few. Fairtrade supports marginalised farmers and workers, enabling them to build a better and more secure life for themselves, their co-workers and their families. Find out more about supporting Fair Trade here
If you choose to move towards a better food “vote” at least once a day, you’re responding meaningfully to the cry of the Earth, both in your own life and by contributing to a broader transition towards more sustainable agriculture, improved lives for animals, lower carbon emissions and a greener environment overall!
Henning Steinfeld et al, Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options (2006, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.