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How Long Does Your Food Travel?

There is something to be said for sourcing food or produce from around the globe – regardless of where you are situated! Whether it is exotic fruit from some foreign country or even a dish that is local fare in some other state of India, we do not think twice about ordering & relishing the same. But there is also a case being made for eating local. All of us have seen plenty of shows where a restaurant owner has become extremely famous simply because they believe in using only local produce. And this is where the answer to the question in the title of this blog becomes important.

How far has your food travelled?
Or as it is more popularly known – food miles.
Back in 1990, Professor Tim Lang conceptualised food miles which denote the distance food has been transported. And it makes sense that the larger the distance, the heavier the carbon footprint. In a world that is paying greater attention to environmental changes, food miles are something that make a lot of impact indeed.

Quite a few factors contribute to food miles. Few of the major ones are:

  • Advancements in food processing, preservation, and packaging technology

  • Growth in food trade

  • Shrinking of food supply locations

  • Availability of extensive delivery methods

  • Change in consumption patterns

  • Wider range of choice

Field to fork, or plough to plate, the more the distance the food travels, the greater the impact it leaves on the world at large. Can a case be made to support local farmers, then?

World map made with food grains and spices

Eating local
It stands to logic, therefore, that eating local is one of the best ways in which to bring down food miles. Staying away from non-seasonal produce, products that are made in other countries, or even brought in from other states, will help reduce the distance between produce and plate. Experts suggest that the best way to implement this ‘policy’ in the way we eat is to check if the content on our plate has come from less than 150 km away.

There's another interesting aspect to the concept of food miles. And this aspect is the answer to the question, “How far and how have you travelled to get the food or produce?” For instance, have you travelled to the local vegetable market by foot or maybe on your cycle? Or have you taken your car to a vegetable market in a shopping mall? Or maybe you got the produce delivered to your home? In which case, how was it packaged?

Taking the concept of food miles further is the packaging. Biodegradable / recyclable packaging is going to help reduce food miles in many ways. Perishable items, or high-value items, out-of-season produce, and non-local produce – all of them need to be processed in a rather complex way. And finally, the transportation costs to bring them to your plate add to the burden we place on the ecosystem. Indeed, this is one of the ways in which we can look at sustainable agricultural practices.

No doubt, amping up our green credentials has become a necessity these days. And there are many ways of doing this too. Perhaps the next time we eat something or buy some produce we could also dwell on the distance the food has travelled, and choosing healthy food options.