Think Twice Contributions to Food Security you can make as a consumer

By Drum Digital
20 November 2013

The 3rd Global Conference on Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Security and Climate Change will be held from 3 -5 December 2013 at Emperors Palace in Kempton Park, Johannesburg.

What has this got to do with you, you may ask?

Well – while we may be inclined to think that Food Security is little more than economic posturing by institutions, food scientists and welfare agencies, governments will point out in no uncertain terms that hunger is indeed one of the biggest obstacles in the way of development, progress, prosperity and peace in the world.

Much like tossing a pebble in a pond, what we do with and about our food as individual consumers and what we and our families do as households can cause ripples in the world’s food reserves that spread out in the ever---widening circles.

In terms of our ability to keep feeding ourselves both physically and economically over the long term, those ripples can become a devastating tsunami unless we – and that means each and every one of us – become more aware of the way we think about food and decide to change our all too frequent bad habits. Right now, the global population is increasing rapidly and our food supplies aren’t keeping up. Sure, there are a great many reasons for this including poor agricultural practices and an unpredictable climate, but two reasons boil down to carelessness and wastage at household consumer level. Here are twelve things you can do to make a difference:

  1. Become better educated about the food you consume and where it comes from. Eat in--- 2 season foods – they’re more affordable and require less energy to store and transport; they’re affordable because of it and don’t create out---of---season demand.
  2. Waste less food and support businesses, restaurants, and organizations that indicate that they’re making an effort to do the same.
  3. Support local producers. It makes for a more robust food production, capability, reduces transportation and storage costs as well as energy so prices come down, it creates jobs in local communities, and make food more accessible. You can also quite easily grow your own veggies: it’ll save you money, teach the kids a valuable skill, and taste better because you grew it yourself. Besides, you use the money you save to buy foodstuffs you can’t grow yourself.
  4. Keep a clean and healthy fridge. Check the seals on the doors so you’re not wasting energy and check that the overall temperature is set to obtain the best benefit from it. Food needs to be stored between 1 and 5 degrees Celsius for maximum freshness and longevity.
  5. Don't throw it away! Fruit on the verge of going soft can be made into milkshakes, smoothies or fruit pies. Vegetables that are starting to wilt can be made into soup which can also be frozen.
  6. Buy what you need. Buy loose fruits and vegetables instead of pre—packed. How much should you buy (portion sizes, etc.)? Make a diary for a week, and record what you actually eat and what you throw away; use that when you buy food next time. That way, you can still eat the same, but chances are you’ll save a lot of money doing it.
  7. Set up a compost bin. Some food waste is unavoidable. With a compost bin you’ll end up with rich, valuable compost to fertilise your garden plants.
  8. Recycle. Let’s face it: South African’s are not very good at this one. It is a real way to reduce waste. Sort the glass, plastic and paper products from your garbage and put into a recycling binl there’s bound to be one near you, and such facilities are becoming more and more popular at schools.
  9. Learn the art of pickling. You don’t need to get all fancy. Do an internet search and find out how easy it is pickle cucumbers, or cabbage for sauerkraut. Pickled foods can last for more than a year when kept in the fridge.
  10. Practice FIFO: ‘First In, First Out’. When unpacking groceries, move the older stuff to the front and put new stuff at the back of the fridge, the cupboard, or the pantry. You’ll be more likely to use products before they hit their expiry date.
  11. Understand expiration dates. Expiration dates have less to do with food and more to do with food safety and more to do with the manufacturers’ suggested date for peak quality. If stored properly, most foods (even meat) will remain fresh for several days after expiry. If it looks, smells, and tastes okay, it should be fine to eat; if it’s growing hair or has started moving around, get rid of it. Quickly.
  12. Donate what you won’t use. That can of beans going begging? Donate it to a soup kitchen, orphanage or charity before it expires so it can be consumed by someone who needs it. For more information on food security, please visit http://afcconference.agric.za or contact Wilfred Alcock on 012 427 9706

Read more: 

Understanding what food security is and why it matters to you

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