“The science is screaming at us, but we need to take action,” began Olav Kjørven at our recent Faith Plans workshop. The workshop focused on the link between faith and food and was led by our Faith Plans partner EAT, the science-based global platform for food system transformation.
If you missed it, you can watch the webinar below and download the resources here.
Olav, EAT’s Senior Director of Strategy, continued his presentation by explaining that people around the world are feeling the impact of climate change more and more. Food, said Olav, is a blessing, nurturing humanity, reflecting our culture, and connecting us with the natural world.
But, he went on, there are many negative problems associated with food and diet culture. Olav highlighted the dangerous outcomes of current food trends if they were to continue, explaining the rapid global food demand increases which come with the current demand for animal products. 4 billion people could be overweight by 2050, he said, while over 500 million will still be suffering from malnutrition.
“The science is screaming at us, but we need to take action” - Olav Kjørven
The solution? A transformation of our food system, based around four key changes. The first change would be a transformation of food production systems to favour regenerative, nature-positive methods. The second change would be a shift in our diets to those which are more healthy, sustainable, and plant rich. Thirdly, we need to secure fair and equitable livelihoods for producers and workers. And lastly, we need to massively reduce food waste from its current levels.
So, where do faiths come in? Olav explained that faiths have very specific assets, celebrations and worldviews, along with the cultural capital to challenge the status quo, whether that’s on a local or global scale. ‘What can you contribute?’ Asked Olav as his presentation came to a close.
Next, we heard from Becky O’Brien, Director of Food and Climate with Hazon. Becky’s talk focused on the place of food in Judaism. Food, she explained, is central to Jewish life and tradition and although there may not be one single silver bullet in the fight against climate change, ‘we cannot save the planet without changing how we eat,’ said Becky.
Hazon’s strong focus on food waste reduction, along with encouraging plant-rich diets, are two examples of the ways in which a focus on food can fix more than one problem. Taking action doesn’t have to wait when it comes to food, said Becky; no specialist knowledge or training is required.
‘Limiting our food choices doesn’t diminish our happiness' - Becky O'Brien
‘Limiting our food choices doesn’t diminish our happiness,’ Becky continued. ‘It increases it.’ In Jewish tradition, food isn’t just blessed with words but with action, she explained, before finishing with a key quote from Hazon’s founder, Nigel Savage: ‘Our people’s stories are the stories of how one person really can change the world.’
A Rocha Uganda
Finally, we heard from A Rocha Uganda’s Sara Kaweesa, who began by talking about the biblical perspective on food. Sara gave insights on the biblical perspective of food, beginning with a story from the bible in which Jesus sees a group of hungry people and asks his disciples to feed them. As people, explained Sara, we need to change the way we see food, from large systems right down to individual seeds.
Sara went on to describe the work that the Church is doing in Uganda, where one of the most prominent problems is that of soil degradation. Soil erosion leads to the loss of millions of dollars every year and has a large knock-on impact in other areas of the Ugandan economy.
Practicing regenerative agriculture is one way to contribute to the health of the soil and to boost the nutrient density of plants, and A Rocha Uganda is doing this through a project called Farming God’s Way, which encourages people of faith to plant in a sustainable way.
Sara shared one specific example of work done in partnership with local schools, through which the Church has set up seed and food banks to allow people to share knowledge and resources with each other, before ending with a call for more support and research in order to effect even greater change.
Sara ended with a call for more support for research in order to make even greater change.
We then moved on to an insightful question and answer session. One of the first questions asked was around the actions we can take in our own lives to change our eating habits for the benefit of the planet.
Olav began the responses, explaining that changing to a healthy diet is, in itself, a powerful force for change in the world. Although we need supportive government policy and changes to the industry itself, making that initial change can lie with each of us.
Becky continued that we can’t make perfect the enemy of good. It might not be our duty to do everything, but it’s also our duty not to walk away. Making small changes to one meal each week, or replacing one food alternative with a better one, for example, leads to leverage on a larger scale.
Other questions focused on how to prioritise. In such a huge area of importance, should we be focusing on diet and health, or the impact on the environment itself when it comes to food production?
From Olav, he believes both are important. The spread of diet-related ill health is happening globally, and food industries have been allowed to get away with murder and governments are showing a lack of change when it comes to regulation. We need to be setting higher standards for policy and practice.
Becky continued that climate change is our health! We’re used to seeing headlines about it, but we don’t always make the link; now that’s changing and people are becoming more motivated to change their diets and make changes.
And Sara finished that in Uganda, reports are clear and people are making the connection between food, health, and the environment. The church is actively speaking to their members about the importance of setting a good example in the choices we make, in order to inspire others.
Throughout the year we’ll be holding a series of workshops to look at different aspects of the Faith Plans in more detail. Please keep an eye on our events page for details of our next event.