Food has come a long way since the curled-up sandwich days of British Rail, becoming one of the most popular topics on our televisions and bookshelves.
From buttery baking delights and stuffed crust pizza, to a growing range of vegetarian options, we are spoilt for choice, helping to make the food and drink industry the UK's largest manufacturing sector, contributing £28.2bn to the economy annually and employing 400,000 people.
Yorkshire has a thriving food and drink sector, accounting for 42% of North Yorkshire’s manufacturing output. It is home to the likes of Northern Foods, Quorn and of course Taylors of Harrogate, not to mention the smaller artisan producers like Yorkshire Heart Vineyard and Brewery in Nun Monkton.
Unfortunately, our eating habits and the way we shop now also mean that food is playing a major part in the global climate crisis that we face, being responsible for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions.
All foods have an associated carbon cost, with emissions arising from production (46%), processing (28%), packaging (7%) and transport (19%) but different foods vary hugely, with more than half of food emissions coming from animal products. So, looking carefully at what we eat and where it comes from is an important part of reducing our carbon footprint - especially as it makes up around 20% of it.
To cater for our modern tastes and lifestyle, a huge variety of food is made available to us, from around the world, regardless of the time of year, leading to emissions from the airmiles and intensive farming practices needed to meet demand.
Whether its strawberries in February, from hot houses in Kent, or chocolate bars from the devastated rainforests of Brazil, our eating habits are supporting economies that are fuelling climate change.
So, what can we do about it? Choosing a vegan diet is clearly becoming more and more popular, bringing benefits to both our health and the environment, but for many it is a step too far. However, what we can all do is to consider more carefully what we eat and where it comes from, so that we can make informed choices.
Buying local, seasonal and sustainably sourced food and drink is a great starting point. Not only will it help to tackling climate change but it will help local economies to thrive, and lead to investment in and support for a more responsible food production system; one in which we feel good about our food choices.
Shops with links to local producers like Fodder, Crimple Valley Fresh and Weetons here in Harrogate offer fresh, fully traceable local produce and provide a valuable outlet for small farmers and local traders in the region, which in turn encourages traditional, more sustainable growing practices. Small independent shops such as Harrogate’s Roots and Fruits in Bilton or JarFull on Bower Street add a great deal to their community, whilst larger stores like Booths supermarket are starting to phase in ethical and sustainable food related initiatives, as well as promoting local food companies like Yorkshire Provender.
Finding suppliers of good, locally sourced food has never been easier, with websites like Big Barn and Deliciously Yorkshire showcasing a wide range of producers and retailers in Yorkshire.
Many will remember, when relying on local shops and buying only fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables was the norm, for others it will mean a change in shopping habits but it’s good sometimes to indulge ourselves in a little nostalgia and experience a taste of the past, just without those curled up sandwiches!
So, why not start today by buying enough local, seasonal produce for two meals a week, and go from there?