It’s been dubbed the “Great Food Transformation” and it’s sweeping through the cities of the world.
Joining in could be the best thing Cork people can do for their own health – and the health of the planet.
The food we eat is responsible for around 13 percent of our carbon footprint.
In cities across the world that average will rise to almost 40 percent by 2050, unless there is a diet revolution.
The answer, according to experts, is a move to the “Planetary Diet” – eating more plant-based meals and reducing our intake of red meat by half.
With experts now warning the war in Ukraine – Europe’s bread and wheat basket – has broken the world’s food system, calls for a “great transformation” are getting louder by the day.
Science has warned we cannot feed the 10 billion people who will be alive in 2050 on the same diet we have today.
Of the 250,000 known plant species only 7,000 have ever been used for human food. Of these just 12 crops – and five species of animal – provide 75 percent of humanity’s calorie intake. Most food production involves just corn, wheat and rice.
To try and launch the food revolution needed, scientists have introduced the concept of the “planetary diet” that they say can both fight climate change and help save the 11 million people who die each year from the food they eat.
The diet that could save the world and improve your health was drawn up by 37 leading scientists for the EAT-Lancet Commission
It is symbolically represented by a plate half-filled with fruits and vegetables.
The other half consists primarily of whole grains, plant proteins (beans, lentils, pulses, nuts), unsaturated plant oils, modest amounts of meat and dairy, and some added sugars and starchy vegetables.
The diet allows for adaptation to dietary needs, personal preferences and cultural traditions. Vegetarian and vegan diets are two healthy options within the planetary health diet but are only personal choices.
The main concern of experts is that the food we consume is now threatening both people and the planet and will have to eventually change.
While more than 820 million people still lack sufficient food, many more consume either low-quality diets or are obese.
Unhealthy diets now pose a greater risk of death and disease than unsafe sex, alcohol, drug and tobacco use combined.
Our system of global food production now also threatens climate stability as it is fuelling almost one quarter of the emissions cooking the planet.
Food, agriculture and land use will pump around 275 gigatons of carbon into the air by 2050 under a business-as-usual scenario. If cows were a country they would be behind just the US and China in total emissions.
Many world cities are now taking action in a bid to save 11 million deaths a year caused by the food we eat, and stem the climate change that threatens the city’s way of life with rising sea levels, floods and heatwaves.
According to experts in the C40 Cities movement by 2030, cities should be aiming for: 16kg of meat per person per year (down from an average of 58kg); 90kg dairy per person per year (down from an average of 106kg, or around 220kg in Europe)
Fourteen cities have become the first to sign a Good Food Cities Declaration and have pledged to achieve the planetary health diet for all citizens by 2030.
Here are some of the ways they are helping to do it:
The city has begun to implement educational projects in schools to introduce a sustainable food culture. A second project to reduce protein intake in school canteens has been launched with 42 schools. Barcelona has developed an Urban Agriculture Strategy, with social, community and municipal gardens in the city that nurture urban ecology.
To reduce emissions the Danish capital transformed public meals in the city’s day-care centers, schools, nursing homes and social care services and launched an action plan and recruitment process to train kitchen staff in more than 1000 kitchens with the competencies and knowledge to create more climate-friendly meals.
The Mexico metropolis they transformed the diets of residents with ‘meatless Mondays’. Citizens are encouraged to celebrate plant-based options by leaving meat out of their diets on at least one day of the week.
Los Angeles . During the pandemic, the city aligned food procurement toward the Planetary Diet, serving healthy, nutritious, fresh meals to low-income OAPS. In an effort to increase equitable access to healthy food in low-income neighborhoods, LA has committed through its Green New Deal to establishing a healthy food cart program to ensure all low-income Angelenos live within 1/2 mile of fresh food and to creating a Good Food Zone program by 2025 to target investments in areas of low-income households lacking healthy food access, supporting the local economy and vulnerable communities
The Milan Urban Food Policy Pact is a network of 225 world cities (none in Ireland) committed to fulfilling 37 actions aimed at transforming diets “to develop sustainable food systems that are inclusive, resilient, safe and diverse, that provide healthy and affordable food to all people in a human rights-based framework, that minimizes waste and preserves biodiversity while adapting to and mitigating impacts of climate change ”.
Find day-to-day recipe ideas with ‘planetary health’ meat, veggie and plant based meal plans here.