We have to ask ourselves what is the real cost of cheap mass produced food and why the next generation needs to be educated on this subject of sustainability. A clear connection between the way food is produced and our health based on the consumption of that food has come to the fore, over the last number of years.Traditional diets have been replaced by diets that are full of mass-produced, highly processed and refined products, while research clearly indicates a direct link between these dietary trends and an increase in chronic disease. An around the clock oversupply of mass manufactured and far traveled exotic foods is common place in today’s supermarkets and the negative impact of continuing this non-sustainable food production and distribution system on the environment and the health of future generations needs to be addressed.
There are clear indicators that things are changing, with words like ‘Personal Carbon Food Print’ being part of everyday language and consumers becoming more aware of the environment. A large number of food scandals based on intense and mass production over the last couple of years have also affected confidence in this type of produce considerably, leaving consumers wanting to be able to connect with their food, its origin and the method of production more than ever before.
Globally there are a number of initiatives that are supporting this change in attitude, for example the Slow Food movement which was established as far back as 1986 by Carlo Petrini in Italy is at the forefront of the drive to establish a clean and fair food system that takes the environment, animal welfare, biodiversity and our own health into consideration.
There is also a continuing and growing movement in Ireland which supports the use of organic, natural, local and seasonal ingredients with the search for the true taste at its heart. Some of this movement is driven by a number of people within the catering sector, which are great advocates for the sourcing of sustainable and organic produce and things are definitely heading in the right direction.
There is however also an urgent need to inform and educate the next generation on the importance of sustainability as early as possible, and initiatives like the ‘The Future is Food’ developed for transition year students by The Taste Council in partnership with Bord Bia are a good starting point. Nonetheless it is vital to continue the tutoring on sustainable produced food into third level education, and not only with upcoming food producers but also with future generations of chefs as it will be their buying decisions which will make a difference in the forthcoming years.