What is food?

What is food? That might sound like a rather bizarre question to ask. Most of us take food for granted. But what is it? Is it social, nutritious, life giving or entertaining?

Its probably all of these things to a certain degree. So, lets look at food in more detail. How do you interact with food? Can you afford it?

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), chronic food deprivation affects over 800 million people, mainly in developing countries. There is also a lack of food security in some sections of the population in developed countries. Certainly in the UK, widespread politically driven poverty has become a major headache.

A damning report from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights was released in November 2018. Author Professor Philip Alston doesn’t mince his words:

It thus seems patently unjust and contrary to British values that so many people are living in poverty. This is obvious to anyone who opens their eyes to see the immense growth in foodbanks and the queues waiting outside them, the people sleeping rough in the streets, the growth of homelessness, the sense of deep despair that leads even the Government to appoint a Minister for suicide prevention and civil society to report in depth on unheard of levels of loneliness and isolation.

And he goes on to say that, ‘For almost one in every two children to be poor in twenty-first century Britain is not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster, all rolled into one.’

He sums his report by saying that ‘poverty is a political choice.’ He puts in a nutshell the overarching issue:

Austerity could easily have spared the poor, if the political will had existed to do so. Resources were available to the Treasury at the last budget that could have transformed the situation of millions of people living in poverty, but the political choice was made to fund tax cuts for the wealthy instead.

For many people its a choice between paying the bills and putting food on the plate. As such people may orientate towards cheap poor quality food. This over the long term will exasperate health issues and make it even more difficult to cope with the pressures of everyday life.

The question then is how to get better quality food to the people who need it? One way of approaching the question is to make people more aware of what they are eating.

Food and Nutrition

There are three main components to food. These are Protein, Fat and Carbohydrates. In addition there are the vitamins and minerals that are essential in keeping us functional.

Another important component is dietary fibre. This is important for digestion and insuring that food moves through the body.

Humans have evolved to eat certain types of food. It is generally understood that it is better to get essential nutrients from food rather that supplements as the various components within the diet act together. E.g. minerals and vitamins can be absorbed more easily when interacting with other elements.

Follow the broad principles of healthy eating:

  • Eating a diverse diet, and vary what you eat, when you can, from day to day and season to season.
  • Be courageous! Try things you have never eaten.
  • Buy something different when you go shopping that is inexpensive and in season.
  • Swap food with a friend. Eat food that is abundant in flavour.
  • Aim to eat with others as often as you can. In addition to the health functions, the social, personal and sensory benefits of sharing a meal are not to be underestimated.
  • Be a role model for your children, your family and friends.
  • Food (in addition to other modifiable and non-modifiable factors) has an important role to play in prevention and treatment of some diseases.

Following this advice needn’t cost a fortune. Shopping around, learning to cook from scratch and cutting back on waste food by only buying what you need can save money. A great resource is Love Food Hate Waste. There are lots of useful tips to help your meal go a little bit further.

Climate Change And Our Food Systems – An IPCC Special Report

On the 8 October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty.

Dear Green Planet (DGP) is committed to a zero waste and zero carbon emissions policy. With this new report, the urgency of tackling the threat of climate change couldn’t be higher.

The report comes to several key conclusions. Since pre-industrial times, global temperatures have risen by approximately 1°C. Climate impacts are already occurring and will continue to intensify unless direct action is taken.

The report warns that sea level rise will continue beyond the end of this century with the risk of destabilisation of the Greenland and antarctic ice sheets resulting in sea level rise of several meters.

The net result of the impacts of climate change will lead to ‘Climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth are projected to increase with global warming of 1.5°C and increase further with 2°C.’

Food Security

The key issue is food security. Our food systems will be covered in a separate forthcoming article. But there is no doubt that climate change will have serious ramifications regarding food production and availability with the added impacts of water stress through drought or flooding, depending on location.

With increased problems comes the risk of malnutrition, particularly in poor countries. This could increase vulnerability to disease. In addition there is also the threat of conflict with competition over reduced resources.

Climate change could threaten ecosystems, particularity through the intrusion into agricultural systems and other related ecosystems of saline water from sea level rise. This is already happening in certain locations.


The obvious solution to the climate problem is an immediate reduction in GHG emissions. But even with urgent action, there will still be climate impacts. As such, adaptation and mitigation measures will be required.

Improved management of resources, including food waste reduction, livestock management, cultivation of crops that may adapt to climate changes and improved irrigation techniques to cope with sea water intrusion.

Adapting agricultural methods could help, such as improving soil management, irrigation and in some cases, crop rotation.

It is clear from the report that livestock production must be reduced. This can only be achieved by a reduction of meat consumption. However with increasing consumption of meat in emerging economies, global demand is actually increasing.

Reducing Food Waste

Food waste is a major problem. At least a third of all food produced from farm to fork is wasted. In western economies, food production tends to be highly subsidised and over produced.

Supermarkets for example may overstock just to fill shelves. They also prioritse the cosmetic appearance of food, leading to the disposal of perfectly good quality food. Consumers also buy more than they need, resulting in food being thrown away.

These are important issues at every level of the supply chain. Waste food contributes to global GHG emissions. This is something that needs to be tackled.

The report suggests some technological solutions to the problem. But technology is not necessarily a magic bullet that will solve the climate crisis. Some technological innovation will certainly help. But the real problem is bad practice and human behaviour. These are issues that will be explored in future articles.