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More about Ethical Sustainable Real Food

I’ve written a fair bit about “real food”; What I mean by it and why I think it is important. Many of you who have seen my posts before will know that I am an ambassador for the Real Food Campaign (RFC). However today I am going to introduce a slightly different way to think about food … the LOAF acronym. This focuses on food and it’s production and manufacture being loving to all the people, plants and animals involved in its chain.

LOAF stands for Local, Organic, Animal Friendly and Fairtrade, and it is used in various settings including my church to talk about loving our neighbour and caring for our planet. A few years ago several of us at my church decided to try and get through Lent buying only LOAF fitting foods. It was much harder than you would think, and certainly significantly more difficult than it surely should be. I went on my first shop armed with a small and I thought very simple shopping list:

  • Apples
  • Milk
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Sausages
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Chocolate

It was February. I know from experience growing up with my parents that home-grown apples can easily be stored over winter, and that carrots are often still being harvested in February. I also know from my history lessons that Queen Victoria was purported to eat a different variety of apple every day of the year, from her own orchards. (Myth maybe!) Yet in my local supermarket I couldn’t get any UK grown (let alone local) apples. I also could get any organic carrots and was told by the assistant very convincingly (but wrongly) that the season was shorter for organic veg, so the organic carrots had ended. I managed ok on Potatoes – organic from Lincolnshire (I’m in Hertfordshire, so ok, but not brilliant from a food miles perspective), RSPCA assured, organic and free range sausages, and the same for chicken (very expensive, but that’s why we have it rarely). I got some organic fairtrade chocolate, and the milk was organic, but had travelled across the country several times being apparently a “mix from farms in Herefordshire and Yorkshire”. So out of the 8 things on my shopping list I had got organic for most, local for almost none, fairtrade for the one needed. I have to say, that the the local issue really bothered me and I gave up. … One tiny shopping trip and I lost the will to continue.

It really made me think. I am passionate about the right food from the right places with the right credentials. … So passionate I sometimes end up paralysed in the middle of the supermarket unable to decide whether to buy the organic apples from South Africa or the non organic ones from the UK. (Why I can’t have organic from the UK I don’t know, they are a native and staple crop!) If I find it hard to buy within good sustainability ethics – when I have a good budget and the passion to try, how would others not so passionate, or without the budget possibly fair and what could we do to make it easier?

I am still wondering.

I think encouraging people to grow their own, eat seasonally and buy from local farms if possible is good (as per the RFC), but I also think that maybe we need to see bigger. We need to find ways to encourage the supermarkets to think LOAF. – Maybe asking them on social media, writing into their head office, taking in leaflets to leave on the checkouts. I’ve done all of these now at various points, but it’s never going to be a quick and easy win. Maybe I should also think about writing to my MP (although he’s bored of me at present with my covid related letters to him), or as we are going to try and do through the RFC, maybe a group of us can find out about any local co-operatives that we could advertise to others by word of mouth.

The idea of LOAF food is to be better for people and planet. Personally I feel that LOAF buying and Real Food are hugely intertwined. Both require a level of commitment, but both can be ways of bringing joy into our eating, rather than just eating for the basic nutrition – although we might also find the nutrition is better. We just need to find a way to ensure it is easily accessible to all, and the choice to change is a simple one.


Published by ecogreengp

GP, Wife, Mum, Climate Activist, Enthusiastic Cook. Owner of a car named Leafy, a cat named Biscuit and a hamster named Carrot. Disorganised beyond belief. .... sometimes I don't even put my shoes on.

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