Dr. Vandana Shiva, the renowned agro-ecologist and environmental activist puts forward a principle that could facilitate our reflection on how to tackle food waste. What if the fundamental reason behind the pervasive waste of food were the radical lack of connection with what we have in our plates?
The food we eat has been transformed, sometimes broken down and reconstituted to such an extent that it bears little resemblance to the actual food it’s derived from. The term ‘ultra-processed’ food was coined to refer to these products, fresh out of the factory, forever in our shelves. Most vegetables can be found on any season of the year and few are those that might question an Italian-style eggplant dish at the dinner table in January. We may enjoy our plastic wrapped apple, banana or kiwi, but could we actually recognize the tree they were plucked from? Wait, do they even grow on trees?
We have already touched upon how greater connection breeds a higher level of consciousness and care. Now, how readily would we throw food away if we knew the time it took to produce it, the efforts put into growing it?
New models of food productions are emerging. They all have potential and pitfalls and we don’t consider them to be the ultimate answer to the global food crisis (1). Yet, they all are signs of a shift from a productionist paradigm to a more sustainable one. In this new approach, food is no longer judge by its calorie content or its price: the carbon, water and land use embedded in food production are acknowledged; consumers are re-framed as producers; communities come together in a common concern for health…
In observing various initiatives taken to mend the food system’s fabric or, often, to create it anew, patterns were identified. They provide valuable insights into what the future of food may look like. And, beyond, in exploring the paradigm shift in food systems, we will start seeing common features with another radical shift underway in a — not so — different field: energy systems.
(1) In its well-articulated and succinct article, Lang (2010), argues that successive ‘phases of change’ have entirely reshaped food systems by restructuring the relationship between people, food and the planet. Climate change, loss of biodiversity and healthy soils etc. are evidence of system failure or a threat to it. Lang asserts that only a comprehensive and collective solution that “assume[s] the connection between environment, social justice and health” can solve the food crisis. [Lang, T. (2010). Crisis? What crisis? The normality of the current food crisis. Journal of Agrarian Change, 10(1), pp.87-97]