Food not only provides us with the fuel and nutrients to sustain life but is a big part of many cultures and plays a significant role socially.

In the UK, most of us are fortunate enough to eat what we like, when we like.  In today’s global food market, we have come to expect to buy most foods all year round, such as leeks in summer and strawberries at Christmas time.  Most of us eat regularly throughout the day, often without giving much thought to where the food has come from or how it was produced.  But looking ahead, we will need to change our food consumption patterns.

The need to change what we chose to eat is further highlighted when we consider the global health challenges that we face, specifically that:
  • Over one billion people worldwide are overweight or obese;
  • One billion others do not have access to adequate food; and
  • An additional one billion have inadequate micronutrient intakes.

Ending hunger is one of the key challenges to address at a global level.  This goes beyond simply producing enough food in the world so that everyone can potentially be fed, as this food needs to be accessible and affordable by all.

In the UK, we see evidence of both over- and under-consumption of dietary energy and nutrients – despite more than 60% of adults currently classified as overweight or obese, many people still have inadequate intakes of some micronutrients due to poor dietary choices.

Overall, we need diets that are both healthy and sustainable.  This creates the opportunity for environmental and other sustainability messages to be tagged onto current messages about healthy eating.  But what is a healthy, sustainable diet?  

The FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations) defines ‘sustainable diets’ as:

'Those diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy; while optimising natural and human resources.'