Food Zones – contemplating a new challenge


January 25, 2010 by missmegany

Maybe it’s the new year and the lack of a challenge to accomplish, or the fact that this time last year I was gearing up for our first £2 a day (mostly-organic) diet, but I think I might try to convince poor Mac to join me on a Food Zone challenge.

Growing Communities' Food Zones

I’ve read a bit about 100 mile diets. I think that in many ways it’s fantastic–focus on local farms, make sure your food doesn’t travel halfway across the world, and support the local-ish economy. On a whim I bought a copy of this book which details a couple’s year of a 100 mile diet. I wish I’d waited until after I’d read some reviews, but I’m sure it will be entertaining and worth passing around (probably a lot like this one about living on £1 a day — entertaining, but not a good how-to guide) Anyway, they give you advice on 100 mile diet on their site, plus there are sites for a BUNCH of people in Manitoba who had a go and list resources, etc and they are even doing it in Scotland. I’ve talked to the guy in Fife, Scotland who said that they have two vegans and a vegetarian. I’m curious to see what they are doing for local protein.

Now, the thing about a local food challenge, is that in addition to better taste from eating food picked when it’s ripe and seasonal, is I’m looking for a low-carbon diet. That means that I might end up choosing tomatoes from France or Spain rather than those from UK hothouses. I also want to make sure that animal welfare is considered. I’m sure I could find factory farms within 100 miles, but that doesn’t mean I’d want to eat their meat, and their environmental costs are awfully high. Organic is also not considered–should we go further afield (200 miles? 300?) if local options are heavy in nitrogen fertilisers? While trying to find out an answer to the last one, I came across this article (and briefly considered getting a degree in food policy for about a minute) in which Professor Tim Lang suggests that food production with 12 miles is better than organic, although organic is obviously also something that needs support.

I’m thinking of trying to do a Food Zones challenge. Set out by Growing Communities, an urban growing initiative out of Hackney (part of London for US people), Food Zones (pdf here) is part of their manifesto and strategy for creating sustainable food systems. It doesn’t rely solely on local food, it distinguishes between those things that you would find within 12 miles, and those that you rely on a larger web of farms for, and doesn’t forget to include fairly traded coffee, spices, etc. This article, interviewing Sarah Elton who keeps a Locavore blog, makes similar points.

The main problem with the food zone challenge is that it would probably require just as much categorising and calculations as the £2 a day organic diet was. Eating for around £2 a day wasn’t the hard part–it was the weighing, measuring, and calculating that preceded and followed every meal.

I think I might do a preliminary check of our pantry and see how well we do in a UK/Europe/Rest-of-the-world ratio. I’m guessing not as good as I’d like to think.

The other problem is trying to get 2.5% out of my own gardening. How likely is that?

Here’s our allotment last summer.

Notice the lack of fruit and veg.

Hopefully we’ll all (especially me) make more of an effort this year, but I’m still a bit pessimistic. Maybe having a garden closer to home (it’s in our backyard) will help as well.
Some interesting reading:

A paper about low-carbon eating written by a consultant for Fife Diet.

Cooking Up A Storm – a summary of a research paper by the Food Climate Research Network. Some great information, good questions showing how complex the issues are, and some tips on what consumers can do on pages 13-14.


2 thoughts on “Food Zones – contemplating a new challenge

  1. Really Good Articles/posts that you have on this site. Thanks

  2. Megan says:

    Thanks, Katlyn!
    I know I need to post more often, but I’m glad you’ve found what’s already here helpful.

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Less and Less and More is all about enjoying more, all whilst worrying about less. Whether enjoying better health because you eat less junk, having more time for friends and family because you spend less time on acquiring, or lots of other big and little things that we want more of, I look at examples of people doing more.


Less and Less and More

Finding more in our gardens, our plates, our communities

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