By Myfoodformula Dietitian Sophie Carty
Dietary patterns in our society at the moment are unhealthy and unfair – overconsumption, food-related chronic disease, and food waste coexist with undernutrition. The United Nations System Standing Committee on Nutrition (UNSCN) has recently released a discussion paper called Sustainable Diets for Healthy People and a Healthy Planet. Some alarming facts are raised in the paper; including that food production and consumption are responsible for 19-20% of human-induced greenhouse gas, 60% of biodiversity loss in our landscapes, and 70% of fresh water use, with animal-based foods being the main driver. As a consequence, many countries have changed their national dietary guidelines so they benefit both human health and our environment.
What can you do to make your diet both healthy and more sustainable?
While large changes are required in the wider food system to help protect our environment, there are still many actions we can take today to make our diets more environmentally sustainable, with the added benefit of boosting our health too! In practice this would vary greatly according to your individual needs, cultural values, and locally available foods. However, in general a diet high in fruit, vegetables, plant-based oils, legumes (e.g. lentils, beans), and wholegrains is more environmentally sustainable. It is even better if you can grow your own produce…zero carbon emitted for transport! A diet high in the above items is also good for overall health.
..good for human health does not always mean good for environmental health. Some foods which are good for our health may have negative impacts on the environment or require a lot of natural resources to produce - such as lean meats and nuts. If reducing your consumption of these foods is not an option there are small and simple ways to make better choices, such as choosing a nut with a lower water footprint or a sustainably sourced fillet of fish.
What’s going on in Dunedin to build a more sustainable food scene?
Dunedin has loads of amazing initiatives and networks working towards a more sustainable and resilient food system. Some of the big players in the background include;
- The Good Food Dunedin Alliance (www.goodfooddunedin.com) – this Alliance is run by the Dunedin City Council and works to create a Dunedin’s food system that it is: “Good for People, Good for the Planet, and Good for the Economy”. Check out their website for some great tips on eating “Good Food for Locals” in Dunedin City and surrounds.
- “Our Food Network” – this collective of like-minded people are passionate about stimulating the production, distribution and consumption of local food, and in turn contribute to building a resilient and prosperous local community. To sign up to their mailing list and keep up to date contact Niki at firstname.lastname@example.org or join the Network on Facebook.
- Otago Organics - a local body which fosters the growth of organic foods and food products in the region. They deliver the OrganicFarmNZ certification scheme food producers can accrue, and host many informative farm tours, workshops and training sessions. Visit: http://www.organicfarm.org.nz/regions/otago for more information.
What can I do today to support a more sustainable and health-conscious local food system?
There are lots of great opportunities in Dunedin (and beyond!) to eat environmentally friendly food and make a difference to our food system. Promote health, diet sustainability and a buzzing local economy by giving the following a try:
1. Support local food producers
There is great stuff happening in Dunedin, and by supporting local producers we can help to build up their business and slowly change the food system for the better. A few of my favourites are:
- Taste Nature: An organic shop and eatery - they have a garden in Waitati which supplies the store, alongside produce and wholefoods from over seventy New Zealand local suppliers.
- The Perc Café: A café whose owners are passionate about ethical, and locally sourced food. Plus the food is delicious!
- Vegetable Stores: Joe’s Fresh Market and Black’s Road Green Grocer – buy some seasonal produce which comes from mostly local, high quality suppliers.
- Local Butchers: Deep Creek Deli and Robertson’s 1st in Meats – both are passionate about local, minimally processed, healthy meats. Enjoy smaller, tastier portions of these quality meats to reduce your environmental impact – 100g per adult serves as a general guideline for a meat-inclusive dinner provides high quality protein and a bioavailable iron boost.
- Otago Farmer’s Market: Open every Saturday morning in the carpark North of the Railway Station, this market is a great place to find many of our local producers and enjoy seasonal fare.
2. Ask where your food comes from!
One of the easiest things you can do to become a more informed and empowered food consumer is to ask where your food comes from. Most local eateries and stores are passionate about food and love to talk about it! In contrast if the staff don’t know, they may not place the same care and priority on healthy, locally-sourced foods and food ingredients. You have a choice about who to support with your food purchases – so choose wisely!
3. Help out at the start of the food chain: Dunedin has oodles of opportunities to get your hands dirty:
- Help at a local community garden – contact email@example.com for more information;
- Participate in Dunedin’s neighbourhood fruit harvesting scheme – contact Our Food Network for more information;
- Get involved in the Dunedin Vegetable Grower’s Club - "a friendly garden club dedicated to the encouragement of home vegetable growing”. Contact Carol Henderson: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Help at KiwiHarvest (formally FoodShare) or the All Saints Fruit and Vegetable Co-Op, which are schemes designed to help those who are struggling to avoid hunger.
Getting involved in local community’s food schemes is also great for improving mental health. Volunteering time and giving away excess are proven ways to increase happiness, and they also provide an opportunity to learn more about food – there are lots of highly skilled people in Dunedin – seize the opportunity to learn from them!
For help with building a diet that is both good for you and the planet, and tailored to your food preferences and level of interest, get in touch with the Myfoodformula team!
Here’s to New Year’s Resolutions that are indeed sustainable.