Why buying local and sustainable food makes sense

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The EU’s upcoming Farm to Fork Strategy (F2F) aims to make the entire food chain, from production to consumption, greener and more sustainable. To find out more, we recently spoke to Marta Messa of Slow Food - a global movement to defend everyone’s right to food that is good for them, good for those who grow it and good for the planet. Marta talked about Slow Food’s beginnings, its work with LIFE and why it’s good to shop local this Easter and beyond.

How did Slow Food start?

Slow Food began in 1986 after a small group of activists, keen to defend a slower pace of life, held a demonstration on the opening of a fast food restaurant near the Spanish Steps in Rome. Since then, it has grown into a global movement of more than one million people in 160 countries.

What is the movement’s philosophy?

We look at food as something that connects politics, culture, history, identity, the environment, and our pace of life. We want to bring different groups together - from farmers and fishermen, to youth activists and teachers. This sense of community is more important than ever given the challenges we are currently facing. Due to the coronavirus crisis in particular, we want to ensure that people still have access to food that is good for the planet.

Why did you decide to collaborate with the LIFE Programme?

We were looking for ways to increase the impact of our work so we thought it would be a good idea to apply for funding.  

How important was the support you got from LIFE? 

It has helped us think more strategically about what we do in order to develop our global movement even further. For example, thanks to the LIFE Programme, we have been working with our network to develop a theory of change to give greater clarity to what we are trying to achieve.

What are the benefits of eating local food?  

Firstly, local food that is grown sustainably tastes better – it’s fresher as it hasn’t travelled long distances. The nutritional quality is higher. In fact, studies show that the antioxidant content of biodiverse food is higher than conventional food.

It’s also about making a better life for everyone. If you buy local, you are supporting local farmers, markets and food artisans. You are helping diversified local food systems become resilient.

There is also a cultural and historical aspect to eating local. If you only eat imported food, you lose out on this.

And of course, eating local is better for the environment as less emissions are involved!

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected food producers?

They have been badly affected. Many open markets have been shut down across the world. This is problematic for people who rely on these channels to get their products. And it is particularly worrying for vulnerable groups in society.

Despite this, we are hearing that food producers and local communities are working together to find new ways of continuing to sell products. Examples include organising home deliveries, flagging markets that are still open, placing orders online and informing citizens on social media about where they can find this food.

What can people do this Easter to eat sustainably?

I would encourage people to find out who and where their local producers are. Reach out to them and buy their produce if confinement measures permit this.

Do this for the sake of local economies. Look for local, sustainable producers who take care of animal welfare and the environment.

And really treat yourself with local food biodiversity – it’s good for you and it's good for everyone else.

Find out more about how Slow Food is supporting Dutch farmers, food producers and retailers and how it is helping local communities in Italy to stay strong during the COVID-19 outbreak.


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