Tag Archives: food consumption

Local solutions to global food shortages

Mopane Caterpillar

A Mopane caterpillar, found in southern Africa

I-Hsien Porter

The United Nations ‘Food Price Index’ recorded food prices (particularly cereals, sugar and meat) rising to record highs.

Warnings of dangerously high food prices were driven by dry weather in Argentina, cold weather in Europe and North America, and floods in Australia. For example, Australia is the world’s fourth largest exporter of wheat.

However, our attention is rarely drawn to food consumption, rather than food production. In a paper in the Geographical Journal, Peter Illgner and Etienne Nel highlight the loss of traditional food and food consumption, which in many parts of the world has been displaced by imported Western fare.

In a case study of the Mopane caterpillar, the authors argue that edible insects have historically been important to diet in poor rural communities. If bias towards Western foods could be overcome, Illgner and Nel express the view that insects are an economically and practically viable addition to our diets. In addition, this might even empower poor communities that cannot aspire to lifestyles associated with high levels of consumption.

The Guardian (5th January 2011) ‘World food prices enter ‘danger territory’ to reach record high’.

Illgner, P. and Nel, E. (2000) ‘The Geography of Edible Insects in Sub-Saharan Africa: a study of the Mopane Caterpillar’. The Geographical Journal 166 (4): 336-351

Lashings of local food: alternative food networks

By Jayne Glass

Between 2007 and 2008, the ‘Fife Diet’ challenged people to sign-up to eating food only from the region of Fife  for a year.  Funded by the Climate Challenge fund, the project raised awareness of how our ‘normal’ eating habits contribute to climate change through the emissions generated in transport, agriculture, industry and in the home.  The organisers and participants monitored their progress and shared their experiences with a much larger network of people trying to re-localise more generally and to explore what sustainable food might be.

In the April 2010 edition of the ‘Social’ section of Geography Compass, Edmund M. Harris considers how those seeking alternatives to industrialized and globalized food systems have looked beyond organic production to develop a range of alternative food networks (AFNs).  There are links between AFN activism and geographical theory of place because many AFNs are set in ‘local’ places, in which relationships of trust, regard and responsibility are perceived to circulate within the ‘local community’.  Harris argues that the academic discourse surrounding AFNs would be enriched by a stronger theoretical engagement with geographical space and place theory because such an exchange would help to develop a more nuanced understanding of the role place plays in food systems.

Read more about the Fife Diet

Read Edmund M. Harris’ (2010) article: Eat Local? Constructions of Place in Alternative Food Politics Geography Compass 4 Vol. 4 pp. 355-369