As we progress deeper into the 21st century and the global population continues to grow the question of food security comes up more and more frequently. Agriculture is by far the biggest consumer of habitable land on earth. Our capacity to keep converting land to agriculture has a fast approaching limit. But with over 800 million people estimated to suffer from starvation or malnutrition globally already, according to the world health organisation, how will the world produce enough food to sustain a growing population into the future?
When it comes to the problem of food security, increases in technology are often proposed as the solution: technology to increase yields on farms, processing foods to last longer, stretch further and sustain more. While technology is useful, the proposed solutions often mean an increase in the complexities in our food and food supply chains. When it comes to our food, we need to look at the solutions hidden in simplicity: simplifier what we eat, how we get it and ultimately how we share it. We need to rethink our food.
Rethinking what we eat
Globally, out of all the land used for agriculture, it is estimated less than 30% is dedicated to production of crops for human consumption. The rest is largely consumed by livestock, and crops produced to feed livestock: our meat. South African agriculture mirrors these global statistics. With the land use that meat production requires, science is suggesting more and more that we cannot sustainably produce the amount of meat we eat – we simply will not have the space. In addition, when it comes to our health, the biggest study on nutrition ever done, published in 2019, concludes the largest indicator of our diet-related health is the level of simple, plant-based, wholefoods within our diet. While the debate on the benefits of 100% plant-based diets continues, there is certainly agreement that we can all benefit by reducing the amount of meat we consume and introducing more simple, plant-based wholefoods. We need to rethink what we eat.
Rethinking how we get our food
With the way we currently produce and consume food it’s estimated that more than 1 third of all food produced is wasted. With fresh produce bearing the biggest waste burden. Much of this waste is happening before our food reaches household level. The more steps our food goes through from farm to shelf, the more waste along the way. We need to simplify our food systems – we need to choose food that is sourced as direct from the producers as possible with less transport, less processing, less packaging and less waste. We need to rethink how we get our food.
Rethinking how we share our food.
It’s estimated more than 50% of children in South Africa live close to or below the poverty line, without consistent access to healthy food. Combined this with our food waste statistics and it’s obvious we do not have a food security issue, we have a food distribution issue.
Children who grow up without consistent access to healthy food are at risk of malnutrition. A malnourished child is at risk of neurological and physiological stunting. Research has shown children who experience stunting go on to complete up to 5 less grades in school and earn significantly less wages. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that in a society with large inequalities, everyone eventually loses. We cannot bridge an education gap before bridging the nutrition gap. Organisations such as FreshBox are no longer a purely charitable initiative – they are a necessity. By rethinking the way we share our food, and incorporating distribution of food to those at risk of malnutrition within the distribution of those who are not, as we do at FreshBox, we can work to address both the food waste and malnutrition issue.
Founder Foods and FreshBox are built on the principles of simplifying our food system – rethinking what we eat, how we get it and how we share it. With the average age of a farmer now above 60 and our available land decreasing, food security is a concern that affects us all. No matter what you view on diet, we need to rethink food.
FreshBox is a registered non-profit organisation run by Founder Foods that aims to sustainably increase access to healthy food for nutritionally at-risk children. Our customers subscribe to receive a weekly FreshBox (high quality fresh produce variety boxes) and we use the proceeds to send healthy food to nutritionally at-risk children.
The long-term goal of FreshBox is to bring healthy, nutritious local food to thousands of children where research has shown nutrition is most crucial.
Are you hungry to help? See the FreshBox Website for more information on how to subscribe.