There is no denying the fact we are all climate influencers in some way and how we purchase, cook and eat food has an immense impact on the planet.
With the triple challenge of limiting global warming to 1.5°C (in line with the Paris Agreement), securing enough nutritious, good quality food and reversing nature loss, it is no secret that the global population is facing a food crisis.
The effects of climate change have impacted areas such as crop production and now consumers are no longer seeing an abundance of fruit and vegetables on the shelves, as some supermarkets were forced to resort to rationing supplies for reasons that include poor weather conditions and Brexit.
New research revelations
Now a WWF study has reiterated the reality that the UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world – but while we may not be able to mitigate the damage already caused, we hold the key to improving and safeguarding nature - one of the most important stakeholders for preserving the planet.
WWF has released a new report to further explore this and has highlighted actions in which we can make changes to our diets to make way for a nature positive net zero transition.
The NHS spends a whopping £6bn on diet-related illness each year, a cost which is predicted to soar to more than £9.7bn each year by 2050, with such illnesses being responsible for about 10 percent of morbidity and mortality in the UK.
This is evidence that the food crisis will not be solved by simply producing more food to keep up with demand but requires a sharper focus on sustainable food production to ensure there is enough healthy and nutritious food for all, without detrimental effects on the planet and people.
Feeding the masses for a more prosperous, healthy future
The report believes a huge shift in transforming our food systems for healthier and more environmentally-friendly diets can be achieved by using a ‘farm to fork’ approach (eating local produce) to help meet climate and nature targets – and the best news is meat and treats can still feature.
WWF recommends aligning the current national diet with Livewell, a sustainable diet modelled by Blonk Sustainability Tools, a Netherlands-based leading international expert in food system sustainability. WWF claims Livewell could reduce emissions by 36 percent and lessen biodiversity loss (a 20 percent reduction) compared to an average diet today. If scaled up and rolled out, it could lessen the burden on the over-stretched NHS and help protect the planet and its inhabitants.
Livewell incorporates every food group, with a focus on fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and pulses, with everything else in moderation for health improvements.
Securing nature’s destiny, through food
In addition to information on its Livewell recommendations, WWF’s report also outlines seven key steps that governments and businesses should ensure their action is aligned to, to reach a nature-positive, net zero transition in the UK:
1. Dietary guidelines (government recommendations for a healthy balanced meal)
2. Public food procurement (government to improve quality of food in public institutions such as schools and hospitals)
3. Safety nets and targeted support (improve nutrition security for the vulnerable, many of those hit harder by cost-of-living crisis)
4. Food environments (holding businesses accountable to encourage plant-rich foods to be more readily available in supermarkets and restaurants)
5. Transparency and accountability (improved monitoring of sustainability and health impacts to enable and encourage businesses to source healthy and sustainable food)
6. Education and information (supporting key industry players such as chefs, local authority staff and healthcare practitioners)
7. Investment in sustainable production (to enable diverse, nutritious food to be brought to scale to boost the economy and support farmers and growers)
Tanya Steele, CEO, WWF-UK, said: “The most effective policies and actions are those that will improve the accessibility, affordability, availability and desirability of healthy, sustainable food, making it the easy choice.
“In this report we outline seven key areas for implementation by government and businesses. We need an urgent focus on healthy, sustainable diets. Without such concerted action, we will not bring our food system within the boundaries of what the planet can sustain.”
Ruth Smith, Senior Consultant - Consumer Goods and Retail at Acre, said: “Food, sustainability, and health are three intrinsically linked elements, that as humans we should all be taking care of as much as we can. It’s essential to monitor the impact that one may have on the other and reflect it in our daily lives to help not just ourselves but also the environment.
“Relying on one approach or one specific diet style may not work - as we all have different consumption patterns and lifestyles, but effort is key in reducing our impact on the planet and improving our health correspondingly.”