3. Regional and seasonal products

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A handful of big businesses dictate the production, distribution and marketing of most of the food we eat. This current food system allows 1 billion people to go hungry every day, at huge cost to the environment. That just doesn’t make good sense to me, so what can we do to fight back against this?

Doing a bit of research to find out about people in your local area who produce and sell the food they make can be a great place to start. If where you live holds produce or farmer’s markets these can be good to go and stock up on tasty foods produced by local people.

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There are so many good reasons to buy seasonal foods grown in your local area, from environmental to culinary to pleasure!

  • Taste – to me this is top of the list! Ever eaten strawberries imported from a hotter country in the middle of winter? For the tasteless, watery disappointment they are not worth the price in my opinion. Plus, the anticipation of waiting until foods come into season in the UK means that they tend to taste even better!
  • Support – local producers need the support of the people around them and getting to actually talk to the people who make the food can be extremely insightful.
  • Cost – you’re also likely to get better deals when buying in season. Whether that be from supermarkets (have a look on labels for where products come from) or if you’re buying directly from producers.
  • Environment – fewer air miles means products have a smaller carbon footprint and less energy is used to transport produce vast distances.
  • Packaging – small producers often don’t have the means to plastic wrap every last item within an inch of it’s life and because the produce is likely to have less far to travel it often isn’t necessary.
  • Diversity – supporting diversity is key. Many agricultural crops are limited to just a few varieties which may be detrimental to future sustainability of the food chain if pests or disease strikes. Many small producers focus on preserving ancient varieties and breeds to preserve our heritage.
  • Transparency – become more connected to your food. I read a recent survey where children were asked where certain foods came from; a scary number of children thought tomatoes grow underground and that pasta comes from animals…Let’s get back in touch with where our food actually comes from shall we?
  • Creativity – cooking in season can be a bit of a challenge so it’s a great way to help you experiment with cooking and meal planning, to hunt down new recipes to match what you have.

Food sovereignty is a movement that has been gathering traction over the last few years also. It’s about people and communities having active control over how food is produced, traded and consumed and allows building of community skills, working with and for nature as well as putting the people who actually eat the food at the centre of the process. This would take away some of the power of big business that controls the vast majority of what we eat.

As well as looking out for ways that you can support local producers around you there are many great resources online to help you find recipes to fit with whatever season we are currently in! One that I use for inspiration is BBC goodfood that has a range of recipe collections for each season.

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What if I want to get even more involved?

Keen to get your hands dirty huh? Well there are lots of ways you can get involved with regional and seasonal food production in your community – from my own personal experience reaching out to like minded people in your local area and sharing ideas and even meals can be endlessly rewarding!

Local Initiatives

There are community groups working across the UK to support local produce grown in season and with care and love. Sustainable Food Cities is a network that connects campaigns, groups, food cooperatives and initiatives striving to improve food sustainability and is a great place to find out what’s going on near you!

Growing your Own

There are many schemes all over the UK that help to distribute free seeds and veg boxes so that everyone (regardless of space/equipment!) can give growing a go. You might just want to start with some herbs too! Many supermarkets now sell fresh potted herbs which can be so rewarding to keep alive. Top tip – give them lots of water when you first get them home, they’ve often not been watered for days previous to you buying them!

You don’t have to suddenly switch everything you buy to seasonal produce made by the farmer down the road but keeping your eyes peeled for tasty looking produce made in your local area and making a few swaps here and there can really make a difference.

“Buy less, choose well.” – Vivienne Westwood

For the keen readers and evidence-checkers amongst you:

Here are two UK seasonal fruit and vegetable charts that are very useful: New Covent Garden Market and Eat the Seasons

British Nutrition Foundation – Healthy sustainable diets – what are the issues? Available at: https://www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritionscience/sustainability.html

Global Justice Now – What is food sovereignty? Available at: https://www.globaljustice.org.uk/what-food-sovereignty

 

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