Saturday 27 February 2016

Sustainable Food Environments

Food consumption patterns can have a significantly negative impact on the environment, as well as beneficial impacts on human health and well-being. For instance, locally grown food has much lower carbon emissions associated with it compared to imported, highly processed, foods. Similarly, a balanced and nutritious diet ensures health and wellbeing while a poor diet leads to increased susceptibility to ill-health and disease.

Achieving sustainability will, therefore, require food that both promotes health and has low negative environmental impacts (sustainable foods). Built environments can hinder, or support, access to these foods.

The Ecological Footprint measure can be used to define preferred, or more sustainable, food and diets. This can be used to propose ‘measures to promote sustainable diets’ such as:
  • Neighbourhoods should include a retailer of, or access to, fresh vegetables, fruit, beans and pulses, bakery products and milk, cheese and eggs.  The cost of these products should be affordable for the local population. 
  • Highly processed, non-local food products, oil, tea, coffee, beers, juice and wine, meat and fish should be more difficult to access than locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables. 
  • A proportion of household gardens and open space within the neighbourhood should be allocated to vegetable and fruit production. 
  • Restaurants with menus based on locally produced fruit, vegetables and include vegetarian, dairy and egg-based dishes, should be given preference over restaurants which have menus based on high ecological footprint items such as meat and imported items.  
Further analysis can be used determine built environment configurations and characteristics that promote access to sustainable foods and to develop ‘sustainable food environment criteria’ which can be used to assess built environments.

Further detail on this study, and the sustainable food environment criteria, can be accessed here.

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