There is no clear definition for ‘sustainable food’ despite its wide usage. It tends to mean different things to different people. Sustainability comprises the process from field to plate while also taking into account environmental, health, social and economic concerns. Sustainable food represents local & seasonal foods, organic and sustainable farming, reduces food of animal origin and maximizes welfare standards, excludes fish species identified at risk, fair trade certified goods, promotes health and well–being, and reduces waste and packaging.
According to pressure group Sustain; food should be produced, processed and traded in ways that:
- Contribute to thriving local economies and sustainable livelihoods at home and abroad
- Protect the diversity of plants and animals and avoid damaging natural resources and contributing to climate change
- Provide social benefits, such as good quality food, safe and healthy products, and educational opportunities
The modern industrialized food system (where food is transported over long distances) usually causes people living in urban areas like Belfast to forget the huge impact of what we eat on our health, local communities and farmers as well as the environment. Cities all across the world, with special reference to the UK, have begun to realize the key role food can play in dealing with some of the current pressing economic, social and environmental issues; and are taking active charge in ensuring that their food systems become sustainable. Initiatives are aimed at encouraging the engagement of communities in food production and increasing the general public’s access to sustainable, locally produced food, in order to produce a collective awareness of food poverty, food waste and other food related social and environmental issues.
The Sustainable Food Places Network is an alliance of public, private and third sector organisations that believe in the power of food as a vehicle for driving positive change and that are committed to promoting sustainable food for the benefit of people and the planet. The Network – which is run by a coalition of NGOs led by the Soil Association, Food Matters and Sustain and is funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation – aims to help people and places to share challenges, explore practical solutions and develop best practice in all aspects of sustainable food.
The Belfast Food Network plays an active role in the network and was awarded a Sustainable Food Cities bronze award for its efforts in tackling social issues such as obesity, food waste and food poverty.