With an overall focus on the United Nations Food Systems Summit Action Track 2 - Shifting to sustainable consumption patterns, the Chefs' Manifesto London Action Hub Spring Gathering followed a 'menu of 5 courses'. The first course aimed to set the scene of why it is necessary for all people to change their behaviour when it comes to the consumption of food.
In the first session, Dr Gunhild A. Stordalen joined via pre-record to open the gathering, introducing all participants to the concept of sustainable consumption. Consumption patterns must change, first and foremost, to improve the health and wellbeing of millions of people. Concurrently, the negative impact on the climate and health of the planet due to current consumption patterns, is another significant reason to alter behaviour patterns. To tackle such big changes, science is required to understand the deeper impacts of what not changing looks like, as well as how to introduce shifts that are needed. The EAT Lancet Report is one such scientific document that can help inform necessary behavioural shifts. Ultimately, food connects people across borders, sectors and cultures. Everybody eats, therefore everyone is a part of the food system. To encourage change at all levels, to entice people to see the need to change their consumption patterns, food must ultimately taste, look and smell delicious. Chefs and other food industry workers have an important part to play in making food palatable, and helping consumers understand the need to change to eat within planetary boundaries.
Love to hear more from Gunhild? Watch her welcome here.
With the United Nations Food Systems Summit being convened in September 2021, 5 Action Tracks have been established, to tackle the major complexities effecting food systems and seek game changing solutions. Action Track 2 seeks to shift to sustainable consumption patterns, which speaks directly to the trend amongst the major global reporting bodies over the last few years, such as IPCC, SOFI Report and the World Resources Report, all of whom are converging towards the need for more sustainable food systems. Dr Mario Herrero Acosta, Chief Research Scientist for the CSIRO - agriculture and food - has spent his life researching sustainable food systems to benefit both people and planet.
His research has shown that the key issues that need addressing are: malnutrition, climate change, environmental degradation and non communicable diseases and their associated costs. Without addressing all of these issues, we cannot transform food systems. Mario's research showed that not only do people not consume enough fruits and vegetables globally, instead relying on starchy crops that, with over consumption are bad for our health as well as the earth, nor are enough fruits and vegetables grown for adequate consumption. Although the EAT Lancet report may be ideal for some people, for 1.5 billion people it is too expensive and unobtainable.
Ultimately, there needs to be a complete reassessment at all levels of society, of what we want from our food system. Joint conversations need to occur, theories of change need to be constructed, and a global buy-in with concrete transition pathways of how we can shift whole societies to consume differently must be rolled out. Coupled with local, national and global change in how we consume, must be the recognition and immediate action on tackling injustices in both health and food systems. The two go hand in hand if food systems change is truly desired. Undeniably, action is required now to achieve sustainable consumption patterns. The cost may be high now financially to achieve such a goal, however the cost in the future will be catastrophic.
Building from Dr. Acosta's overall snapshot of the wider issues around shifting consumption patterns, Alyson Greenhalgh-Ball introduced the concept of Pollinators for Action - the components that allow fruit or seeds to grow. Unequivocally, the food system is complex, but there must be a coming together for people, planet and prosperity. Faced with so many choices, many of whom are paradoxical, there is a temptation to oversimplify, creating heroes and villains within disciplines, foods, geographies and policy. Rather than forcing a choice between concepts such as nature vs nutrition, big food vs local, red meat vs plant based, there must be a coming together of contextual understanding that surpasses the heroes and villains we are (oftentimes) unintentionally confronted with. One cannot address the lofty, often debated heroes and villains within our food systems, without first recognising that economies, culture, location, norms, environment and family plays a huge part in the lens in which we approach consumption.
Dietary diversity is not the norm. Ideally, it is needed for planetary health as well as combatting malnutrition and food security, yet we are far from equal in our ability to access and afford diverse ingredients. This has resulted in unintended consequences which have contributed to the health of the planet as well as the health of people: an over-reliance on 4 crops globally providing more than 60% of all calories consumed. Unintended consequences can be counter-acted positively or negatively by an awareness of impact, which is caused by frequency and amount. The frequency which we consume a particular food, plus the amount we consume, has an impact on the environment and our health. What is consumed, wasted, promoted, advertised, communicated, grown, and cooked is directly impacted by what is driving our decision making process. To that end, being aware of our individual behaviour lens is paramount to understand wider consumer choices. Individual behaviour is determined by ones contextual environment. Attitudes, beliefs, cultural learnings and reasoned agency impact unconscious consumer choices. Complex problems such as food systems transformation, require solutions that allow consumers to make a conscious impact by having their entire food buying ecosystem geared towards an everyday rationale, making food choices that are good for people and planet easy and appealing.
To watch the full first course, click below!