Higher Education Funding Council for England

Challenging assumptions about ethical food

Thursday 06-03-2014 - 12:00
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A lot of people don’t think about the social and environmental impacts of their eating habits.

It’s easy to pick up what you want from a supermarket, without having to think about how it got there, or what it potential negative effects it may have caused around the world.

But even for people who try to make positive choices about their eating habits, there are still a lot of poor assumptions which can be made when trying to do the right thing.

All through February, the University of Leicester Students’ Union have been challenging assumptions about the ethics of eating, and asking students to rethink their relationship with food.

“The discussions throughout February have got people thinking and talking about what good food is”, explains project lead Charlotte Nagy-Baker.

“Whether getting involved on the growing plot or looking at the enterprise side of food provision, students are beginning to take an active part in their own food futures, reconsidering the idea of ethical and environmental foods”

When we think about ethical food, for instance, we often assume that local and British is best. But a higher-or-lower food miles game has helped students to understand that British food isn’t always the lowest carbon produce.

“Imported tomatoes are lower carbon than hot house grown English varieties out of season”, Charlotte points out. “Students were shocked to find that some stereotypically British veg had higher footprints than some other international varieties, such as chillies in certain months”

Other activities challenged even more deeply ingrained attitudes – such as an invitation to eat squirrel. “Students might think 'no, I don't want to eat squirrel’, but why is that?”, Charlotte asks. “Is this reason really valid, or is this a culturally formed conception of what is and isn't edible?”

All of these activities have been encouraging students to take more of an active role in their own food production – one of the surest ways to lower the negative impacts of your food choices.

“Students can control all elements of the food system if they wish - it isn't something you have to wait to do when you are older but something you can get involved in now”, Charlotte tells us.

Through Hungry For Change, students are reconnecting with their food in a range of positive ways – subscribing to low-cost recipe boxes, learning how to dispose of waste through DIY wormeries, and growing their own food both on campus and at home.

At the University of Leicester, Students’ Green Fund is helping students to avoid poor assumptions about what makes food ethical, and supports them in making practical, impactful steps towards a fairer food system.

 

 

                                                                                                  

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