In a time when Australian governments are closing sustainably managed commercial fisheries, expanding cities and reducing peri-urban agriculture, and at least 5% of the population or ~1.2 million are experiencing personal food insecurity (some estimates range up to 10% of the population), Australia has a lot to learn from other nations.
France is a nation of food lovers; flavours are savoured and meals are social events. The pride that France has for its fine food goes beyond what the general public are consuming, and extends across the entire food system.
The parliament of France has recently passed a law that requires all state institutions (schools, hospital cafeterias, senior living communities and prisons) to source at least 40% of their food locally. The proposal still requires approval by the French Senate, however demonstrates the absolute commitment of the nation to support local growers, and by doing so, support the regional food system. Advantages of sourcing locally include health, environmental and social outcomes such as:
- Local farmers benefit through having a stable market demanding sustainable and seasonal products
- Whole and nutritious food is available to those in state institutions
- Food travels shorter distances (lower food miles often equates to fresher produce and lower emissions)
- France’s overall emissions may decrease by 12% through limiting impacts from agriculture, transport and waste
This new law forms part of a series that have been introduced in France that simultaneously address issues of climate change, food security, employment and wellbeing.
In February this year, France ruled that all unsold food from supermarkets must be donated to charity or for animal feed to counteract food waste and allow all French residents access to food. Under this law it will be illegal for supermarkets to destroy edible products, and retailers must partner with food distributors. Currently in Australia,
82% of food waste from households and retailers is sent to landfill, amounting to $8.2 billion of purchased food going to waste. Whilst Australia’s issues with food waste extend well beyond the retail sector, by diverting at least a portion of this perceived ‘waste’ from landfill, the following benefits can be seen:
- Nutrients are retained within the system
- Greenhouse gas emissions are reduced (organics are one of the main sources of methane in landfill)
- Charities spend less money purchasing food, allowing funds to be used elsewhere
- It enables those who are in need of food to gain access
In 2012-13, Australian food rescue charities recovered over 32 thousand tonnes of food and diverted these to charities and organisations across the nation. If Australia passed a law making it mandatory to donate all unsold food it would increase the reach of food aid organisations, provide nutritional support for individuals in need and increase the nations overall food sovereignty. Listen to Sustain Executive Director Dr. Nick Rose speak more on food waste issues in Australia.
A third law recently passed by France led to a ruling that all rooftops in commercial zones must be partially covered in either solar panels or plants, increasing connectivity between green zones for local wildlife, insulating buildings and encouraging renewable energy. This further targets some of the key problems facing societies, and by planting edibles on the roofs it increases the resilience of communities and promotes local food security.
Whilst there are a lot of positive initiatives and communities supporting a fair food system in Australia, perhaps it is time our policies are updated and we focus on simple yet effective mechanisms which support our local farmers, increase food security and decrease environmental stress.