Food sustainability

What is food sustainability and how does the UK improve its food security?  What can we do as individuals to contribute to food sustainability in our country? 

What is food sustainability?

At a fundamental level, food sustainability is about generating enough food for the human population. It is “grounded on the availability of fertile land, water, nutrients and an adequate climate” (Food Sustainability in the Context of Human Behaviour).

As you can see from this, our impact on our natural environment and climate change has a direct effect on our food security. Food production needs to increase to feed a growing population. This needs to be sustainable.

Food security in the UK

In a report for the UK, the Department for Environment,Food & Rural Affairs highlights the factors that threaten food security and sustainability. These include:

  • climate change and climate variability, 
  • biodiversity loss caused by agricultural land expansion, and 
  • overexploitation of natural capital resources, including fish stocks and water resources.

When measured by the Food Sustainability Index, the UK ranks 20th out of 78 countries. The index measures 66 areas of sustainability including food loss, waste, agriculture and nutritional challenges. While in the top ten for food waste, animal welfare and affordability, the UK scored low for trade impact, over-nourishment (obesity) and diet composition. 

The UK relies on imported food (approximately 50% of the food consumed), despite a capability to provide 75% of our food requirement. We want to be able to purchase fruit & vegetables and other out of season foodstuffs that have to be imported.

Ways to improve food sustainability

Rather than global challenges like eliminating hunger, let’s look at what we can do to improve food sustainability. We can produce, protect, reduce, and restore (World Resources Institute).

Produce more – grow your own and substitute imported foods. One clever idea is to grow your own exotic mushrooms using a GroCycle pack. Another is to use British Recycled Plastic raised beds to grow in your own garden. Support companies like City Farm Systems, who help increase the efficiency of farming in city and urban areas. Learn organic gardening with the Biodynamic Association.

Protect more – use products and services that offset their emissions by supporting projects that protect biodiversity and natural habitats like wetlands. You can do this by buying from Habitat Aid who support projects across the UK or buying insurance from Evergreen and Naturesave. Invest through Triodos Bank, Reliance Bank or in Ethex projects. 

Reduce more – eat a healthier diet and buy healthier food. Support biofuel production. Reduce waste by recycling with companies like BIo Collectors and Globechain Reuse Marketplace. Use a logistics company like Zhero. Buy local from plastic packaging free outlets like Jarr Market or the Top Up Truck

Restore more – look for projects that restore resources. Offset your vehicle emissions and help reforestation projects with Neutral Ignition. They are planting trees throughout the south of England.

We can also support better imported food choices. Look for organisations that pay ‘essential workers’ in food production a fair wage. This will contribute to ending poverty & hunger. Organisations like Source Climate Change Coffee, Divine Chocolate and Nemiteas.

Find more companies to use in our sustainable directory.

Annette Clubley

Annette is a keen wildlife conservationist, mindful of sustainability and our impact on the environment. Outside of work, family is her focus and she loves teaching the next generation to enjoy the outdoors.