Manila, Philippines (18 July 2012) – The global food system – how food is grown, distributed and consumed – sends one billion people to bed hungry every night. And yet consumers, in particular women, can dramatically turn things around by making ‘positive food choices’, according to a new report by international non-profit Oxfam released today.
The report, The Food Transformation: Harnessing Consumer Power to Create a Fair Food Future,has found that women who make the majority of the decisions about the food their families eat and control around $12 trillion or 65% of the world’s annual consumer spending. A survey made by Oxfam for the report also reveals that they want to know what changes they can make to the way they buy, store and prepare food to help the environment and tackle hunger.
Overall, 73 per cent of mothers living in urban areas questioned in the six country survey said they wanted to know how to make a difference when they shopped for food. Filipino mothers posted the highest percentage at 88 per cent.
83 per cent of all the mothers included in the survey said they wanted to know how to use less energy when cooking and over three quarters of women also said they were happy to make other changes such as feeding their family a meat free-meal once a week. 85 per cent of Filipino mothers were willing to give up meat and 96 per cent of them wanted to know how to use less energy when cooking.
“The survey shows Filipino women can be a force to fix the way we manage food. Filipino women – and men, who must begin share this responsibility – can do this through positive food choices, choices that redound to the good of our food system,” said Kalayaan Pulido-Constantino, Oxfam spokesperson for the Philippines.
“For example, they can buy produce from small farmers to help strengthen their livelihood and therefore sustain food production for the long term. In the Philippines, Oxfam is working with partners to put up women’s markets – alternative spaces where food produced sustainably by women – who remain largely unrecognized as food producers – is available to consumers. This is one of many ways where mothers can steer our food system in the right direction,” said Pulido-Constantino.
“Women across the globe are concerned about the way food is produced and the people who produce it,” said global Oxfam spokesperson Colin Roche. “They want to know what they can do to make a difference and together they are a powerful force for change. Oxfam has come up with five simple actions – from cutting waste to using less energy when cooking – that anyone can take in order to help put the global food system back on the road to recovery.”
“What we do in the supermarket or in the kitchen does matter”, said Roche. “Small actions taken by enough people add up. Together we can make a big difference to the lives of people who are struggling to feed their families across the globe.”
According to the report, the global food system is characterized by volatile prices that make life hard for small-scale producers as well as consumers; a system that is increasingly dominated by a small number of immensely powerful corporations; and a system that is contributing significantly to climate change as well as being highly vulnerable to its impacts. It is a system that is unfair, and unsustainable.
“If enough people act, the reverberations will be felt right along the food chain. Governments and the global mega companies that prop up our broken food system will be forced to change the way they do business,” said Roche.
The new Oxfam report sets out five positive food choices which if enough people around the world take would help poor farmers feed themselves and their communities, help tackle climate change which is undermining agricultural production, and help ensure valuable agricultural resources such as water are not wasted:
· Eat less meat: If urban households in the US, UK, Spain and Brazil were to eat a meat free meal once a week for a year, swapping beef for lentils or beans, the greenhouse gas emissions saved would be the equivalent to taking 3.7 million cars off the road.
· Reduce food waste: In the six countries surveyed one in six apples ends up in the bin, that’s around 5.3 billion apples every year. The greenhouse gases produced in growing, trading and decomposing these apples is equivalent to burning 10 million barrels of oil. Only buying the apples we need and storing them in the fridge will help cut this waste.
· Support small-scale food producers such as buying Fair Trade: If consumers in Brazil, UK, USA and Spain bought two Fair Trade chocolate bars each month instead of their usual brand it would add up to over 12.5 billion chocolate bars a year. This action could help transform the lives of people who live and work on 90,000 small scale cocoa farms across the globe.
· Buy Seasonal: A lot of energy is wasted growing food in the wrong place at the wrong time of year. We can save energy and cut greenhouse emissions by eating more of what’s in season grown near us.
· Cook smarter: Simple actions, such as putting a lid on your pan, can cut the amount of energy we use in cooking by up to 70 per cent.
The survey of over 5100 mothers living in towns and cities in Brazil, India, Philippines, UK, USA and Spain also shows that women in developed countries feel less connected to food producers and less knowledgeable about how their food choices impact on people and the planet than their counterparts in developing countries.
For example, 86 per cent of mothers in the Philippines feel they know how the food choices they make affect the wider world compared to just 46 per cent in the United States and 60 per cent of women surveyed in India felt a connection to food producers compared to just 23 per cent in the UK.
The report is part of Oxfam’s global Grow campaign for a world where everyone has enough to eat always. In the Philippines, aside from working with women farmers and fishers to promote sustainably produced food, Oxfam will also be campaigning for a shift to brown rice consumption to realize national rice self-sufficiency. For more information, log on to www.oxfamblogs.org/philippines