There are so many ways that individuals can drive the change to a better food system. We vote for the food system we want with every mouthful we take. Food is simply a system of supply and demand! The power really is in our hands. Together, we can reclaim our food system. We need to OWN IT.
So many of our choices have been taken away from us as we deal with the COVID crisis, but all of us are capable of making positive choices, whether they be big or small.
Here are some ideas of what you could do now and long into the future. Some of these are ideas are Bristol-focused but there's plenty that will apply to you, wherever you are.
And remember, don’t be put off taking action because you can’t do it perfectly.
Do it imperfectly as well as you can.
Click the food to explore the action area
With the supermarkets showing their vulnerabilities in supply there has never been a better time to make the switch to local producers.
For Bristol locals, Bristol Food Union has put together this amazing website with links to local producers who are delivering beautiful, ecologically produced veg, meat and other essentials. You can also donate to support independent businesses and buy meals for NHS staff while you are there if you are in a position to do so!
Other great options nationally include Fresh Range, Riverford and Abel & Cole. You might find them at capacity at the moment, but keep checking back. You can also search on this page from the Soil Association for your local veg box options.
If the supermarket is your only option, then choose British, seasonal produce where you can! Most products have Country of Origin listed. Choose those closest to home.
One of the most powerful things you can do to reduce your demand on the global food system is to eat seasonally. Fortunately we naturally tend to crave seasonal food.
Who can imagine better winter food than root veg stews, pumpkin soup, carrot and squash curry or vibrant salads full of tomatoes and fresh herbs in the summer!
Try these links for more information:
cooking & Eating!
Now is the time to get creative in the kitchen! Make your money go further and your food taste better. Learn nifty tricks to help you minimise waste and maximise flavour.
What goes to waste in your home? Are there storage tricks to make your food last longer? Are there recipes you could find to use up your repeat waste offenders?
If you waste a lot of spinach, why not cook it down and freeze it in balls when it’s starting to turn to chuck into curries at a later date. You can chop and freeze almost any veg that is not going to last!
The freezer is your best friend. Slice and freeze half your bread for toast. Portion up and freeze your meat and fish. Batch cook and have a ready meal in the freezer for a busy day.
Have a spare ice cube tray for freezing things like lime juice, turning herbs chopped in oil, chopped garlic and ginger. A labelling system might be a good idea!
A great way to make herbs last for ages is to put them in a jar of water, put a sandwich/food bag over the top with an elastic band and keep in the fridge.
Foods like celery, broccoli and asparagus will keep longer if you keep the stems in water on the window sill.
Certain fruits and veg pair well, others don't. Potatoes and apples should be stored out of the fridge and, kept together, slow the ripening process. Potatoes and onions, however, speed each other up!
Chuck any small amounts of leftovers in the next dish you cook. A bolognese with a couple of spoonfuls of curry will only be extra interesting!
For the unavoidable stuff be sure to use your food waste bin. Or compost your own!
Here are some more links for tips and ideas!
Cooking isn't a joy for everyone, but if you think you fall into that category here are a few quick ideas that might make you enjoy it a little more:
Get a good chefs knife. Chopping veg with a blunt knife is a chore. A sharp knife makes it a pleasure, and it's much safer too. You can get a decent enough knife for around a tenner from a supermarket, kitchen shop or somewhere like TK Maxx.
Notice the colours, patterns, aromas and even sounds as you prepare food. Food is full of surprises. Pay attention to the sensory treats hiding in that cabbage.
Taste your recipes as you cook and see balancing the flavours and textures of a dish as a game every time you make a meal. You're looking ideally for a balance of sweet, sour, salty, umami and bitter. A variety of textures makes a meal more interesting. How can you introduce some fresh crunch or something smooth and silky? Here are top tips from one of our favs, Anna Jones.
Our new favourite app is Plant Jammer - a really fun and easy to use tool to create new exciting recipes from what you have in your house.
Now is a good time to try eating less meat as it will help you save some money. Not sure where to start on the cooking front? Here’s some ideas from the BBC to get you started.
Here are some of our favourite Instagram accounts for inspiration:
Let’s not forget, the best thing about food is EATING IT!
Make meal times special. Lay the table, sit down together, put some soothing music on and light a candle. Check out this awesome dad making meal time fun.
Plate your food beautifully! We experience so much of our meal time with our eyes. Embrace your inner Masterchef and take a moment to think about making the food look nice on the plate. Even if you're only having eggs on toast!
If you’re home alone, why not set up a video call to a friend or family member.
Put on a good radio show or podcast (something funny is best in our opinion!) or some of your favourite music.
Try to avoid eating in front of the TV as a rule. Plenty of time for telly watching and it makes us miss the food experience and eat more than we need (but the odd TV dinner is great once in a while!).
Use this slow pace of life to find the time to REALLY experience your food. Put your knife and fork down between mouth fulls and see if you can taste all the different components of your food. What different textures are there? What could you do differently next time to get the balance of sweet, bitter, salty, sour and umami better? How could you introduce a bit of crunch or creaminess?
Enjoy every mouthful, and reflect on all the energy, both human and natural, that has gone into getting your meal from the first seeds to your teeth!
What a great time to get growing! We at grOWN IT are certainly doing more than ever before. Whether you have a big garden or a window sill there are things you can try growing if you can afford to buy a few supplies, such as compost and seeds.
Research has shown that gardening helps children acquire essential life-skills which enable them to adjust in a rapidly changing world and make a positive contribution to society as a whole. Urban growing has many benefits. Key among these is its potential to reduce barriers for citizens to consume more locally grown produce.
If you'd like to grow food from scratch, you'll need seeds and compost, and the rest you can pretty much make do with things like old food containers and newspaper. We recommend following us on Instagram and Facebook for growing tips and ideas.
Ideas that we'll be sharing, that you can try at home, including sowing seeds, sprouting grains, growing food from off-cuts and microgreens. It'll be an experiment for us, so why not join in!
For some guides for beginners check out this article from The Guardian and this one from BBC. This Guardian article suggests how to grow things with almost no resources! We also recommend following our friends and Urban Growing trailblazers Incredible Edible Bristol on Facebook.
While governments, huge corporations and agri-business control our food system our actions can only amount to so much. We’ve got to support the amazing work of groups like the Soil Association and Land Workers Alliance who are rewriting the policies around agriculture with people and planet in mind, not profit.
Active citizenship and getting behind these movements with our voices, pens and bodies is what will influence decision makers. Sign a petition, become a supporting member, attend a march or donate! Check out this video to find out how your actions DO make a difference.
Here is our selection of some of the best campaigning organisations you should know about:
The Soil Association is an amazing UK charity that campaign for healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use. Explore their inspiring work, sign up to their newsletter and become a supporting member from just £3.50 a month!
The Landworker's Alliance are a union of farmers, growers, foresters and land-based workers with a mission to improve the livelihoods of our members and create a better food and land-use system for everyone. One of the most solution-focused, practical and inspiring groups around, these guys deserve your attention and your support.
Sustain are another fantastic alliance of organisations, campaigning on all sorts of crucial food issues.
La Via Campesina (translated literally as The Peasant's Way) is arguably the largest social movement in history. Find out who they are and how they work here.
Global Justice Now campaigns on many issues, including food. Read about their inspiring work and successes.
Want to find some petitions to sign? Here are a few suggestions:
Compassion in World Farming have a host of active campaigns you can explore and support with a signature (or donation!)
Join Greenpeace in asking the UK government to work towards a Global Ocean Treaty.
Join Friends of the Earth in their campaign to protect our countryside and its wildlife by reducing pesticide use.
learning & keep
We’ve got to do food differently. And it’s down to us to create a food system that works. We all know knowledge is power. So ask questions, have conversations, keep learning, keep adjusting, keep an open mind and let’s make caring about the sustainability of our food a part of everyday life.
Sign up for newsletters. Get on the socials and start reading, sharing, liking and talking. Here are some of our favourite people to follow on Twitter, where you'll find more information, but most of them have beautiful and informative Instagrams too:
Keep learning! Here are some great resources for you to explore.
Food Unfolded: An exciting and fascinating exploration of all things food, from science to technology, farming to nutrition.
Food Savvy: A hub for delicious, affordable, healthy and climate friendly food.
Food Systems Academy: An entirely free resource of talks from the countries leading experts.
The Sustainable Food Trust: So many informative articles. Sign up to their newsletter now!
The Landworkers Alliance: Great news blogs from these heroes.
Action happens when action is normalised.
BE THE CHANGE!