Sustainable Food: Moving Towards A Healthier Future

By 2050, the world’s population will reach 9 billion and the demand for food will double. We need to find ways to double the productivity of farming on the same amount of land. (Source NDTV)

Sustainable food system is a food system that delivers food security and nutrition for all in such a way that the economic, social and environmental bases to generate food for future generations are not compromised. This means-

  1. It is profitable throughout, and economically sustainable. 
  2. It has broad-based benefits for society, social sustainability.
  3. It has a positive or neutral impact on the natural environment, environmental sustainability.

There are many factors important for having sustainable food which include how the food is produced, how it’s packed, how it’s distributed and how it is being consumed.

  1. Food Agriculture

Agriculture often places significant pressure on natural resources and the environment. Sustainable agriculture practises are intended to protect the environment, expand the earth’s natural resource base, and maintain and improve soil fertility.

Farmers may use methods to 

  1. Promote soil health
  2. Minimise water use
  3. Lower pollution levels on the farm 

Consumers and retailers can

  1. Look for value based foods that are grown using methods promoting farmers and workers’ wellbeing 
  2. Environmentally friendly methods of food production

2. Food packaging

Packaging is an essential element responsible for food sustainability. It is about minimising the environmental footprint of packed foods.

Sustainable food packaging includes reduction of food waste by preserving food quality, food safety from food borne diseases and any type of chemical contamination, while also reducing negative impact on the environment. 

This  can be done by reducing the use of plastic packaging and wrappers and using biodegradable packaging materials.

3. Food storage and distribution

Storage plays a very important role in the food and beverage industry as many products need to be stored at different temperatures and different conditions. 

This requires large warehouses or distribution centres. It takes a lot of energy to heat, cool and light a food storage unit like this, specially for cold storages. Using renewable energy sources like solar or wind or hydro-power energy to power these warehouses will make it more sustainable for the environment.

4. Food consumption

Sustainable food consumption can be defined as the use of food products that respond to basic needs and bring a better quality of life, while minimising the use of natural resources, toxic materials and emission of waste and pollutants over the life cycle so as not to jeopardise the needs of future generations.

Sustainable consumption can be achieved by 

  1. Promote consumption  of plant based foods
  2. Decrease meat consumption
  3. Opt for seasonal products
  4. Buy locally/organically produced foods

5. Managing food wastage

Reducing food loss and wastage is essential in a world where the number of people being affected by hunger are rising and tons and tons of food is either lost or wasted every single day.

Globally around 14% of food produced is lost between harvest and retail, while estimated 17% of total global food production is wasted(11% in households, 5% in the food service and 2% in retail.

Food loss and wastage undermine the sustainability of our food systems. When food is lost or wasted, all the resources- including water, land, energy, labour and capital, all go to waste.

In addition, disposal of food waste in landfills leads to greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to climate change.

Although there has been considerable strides towards implementing sustainable food practices, however, every individual should be taking actionable steps towards lowering their food’s carbon footprint.

– Reported by Srishti Gupta