Sunday, September 11, 2011

Too much and too little

I've been listening to The Food Programme on BBC Radio 4. It was about food poverty and food banks. Like the Americans, it seems an increasing number of British people are relying on free food from food banks to avoid going hungry and to feed their children. One woman spoke about how her husband had had a wage increase, which meant that they lost some of their benefits, ending up worse off. An American academic was interviewed about the difficulties of distributing food vouchers in the US, where they're not necessarily used to buy the most nutritional food. I've read elsewhere that they've been used to pay for sugary drinks that rot children's teeth and contribute to obesity.

In England and Wales we're throwing away 3.6m tonnes of food waste a year, which adds up to £9bn a year. A lot of it is due to over-buying food in supermarkets and then throwing out stuff because it's past its "best before" date, which isn't the same as the "use by" date. See the link on the right (Love Food, Hate Waste).

I'm old enough to remember post-war ration books. I might still have one somewhere. When food was rationed, most people ate a healthy diet because it was carefully balanced by nutritionists. Many more people were doing physical work too, so they burned off the calories from saturated fats and sugar. When I worked on a farm, my breakfast (after I'd already done a couple of hours work) was double-yolked eggs, bacon, sausages, fried bread, tea and toast and marmalade with butter. I weighed far less than I do now, and was far healthier.

Maybe it's time to bring rationing back? It would make people think twice about throwing good food away, while ensuring the low paid ate properly. You could favour British producers and save a fortune on food-related health care. Yes, I know it won't happen, but I can dream.
Illustration: WW2 propaganda poster.

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