We want to see colleges not only making a commitment to take food miles into account in their procurement and support local suppliers (as many already do), but also making this commitment visible to students — both to encourage transparency regarding our food supply chain, and to raise awareness of its importance to living a sustainable lifestyle.
What's the issue?
With increasing recognition of the threat posed by global climate change, it's essential we move to low-carbon living in every aspect of society – and that includes food. The IPCC predicts that aviation will account for between 3 and 10% of global carbon emissions in 2050, but it is experiencing such rapid growth that the Royal Commission has said this may be an underestimate. According to the government's own projections, by 2050 aviation will be emitting at least 95% of the entire national carbon allowance. In this context, we need urgently to reconsider the way we supply ourselves with food.
Of course, it is not as simple as just re-localising food production. Unseasonal produce hot-housed in the UK may produce as much carbon as shipping it from somewhere where it is in season; various other factors in the production process can also affect the carbon-efficiency of food. However, supporting locally-grown food is an important part of a holistic reconsideration of food procurement in light of the need to tackle climate change – which should also include a greater preference for seasonal produce, low packaging and vegetarian meals.
What can we do?
Though doom and gloom abound in often confusing scientific reports and media coverage, there's absolutely no reason to lose hope. So many people are passionate about changing our habits for the better; you need look no further than wonderful Cambridge for your inspiration. We have a great market selling local produce (veggies, fruit, eggs,meat, even marshmallows!) which is open every day of the week, and which converts to a jolly farmers' market on Sunday. Shops such as The Cambridge Cheese Company and Originate are stuffed with cool, seasonal food from Cambridgeshire; fresh, cured, cooked, ready to cook... Go and see! Contrary to popular opinion, organic and local food is not always more expensive than its supermarket equivalent. You don't have to become a die-hard market expert, but buying your apples in the open air is a lot nicer than queuing over your harried lunch hour for a plastic-bagged Ganny Smith in a supermarket. You know where we mean.
Also, you can nudge your college hall the right direction by showing enthusiasm for all things local. Ask your Green Officer to get official balls rolling with catering managers, and pitch in your support for what is suggested and/or implemented.
Don't just use it as a thoroughfare; explore a little! To help, here's a wee guide to what you can get, and by default, how we can perhaps stop jamming up that ubiquitous student haunt in preference of open air shopping. In short, we really hope to see an increased student interest in local food, and a more moderate use of supermarkets.
We made The Market Guide in order to make what may seem a confusing place which is irrelevant to the needs and habits of students become the opposite. It shows the stalls in order, and provides a brief description of what's on offer at each one.