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.