How to avoid food shortages

What do we need to do to avoid food shortages?


Seasonal eating

Plants have a life cycle and as they reach maturity, they are ready to be harvested. Generally, when food is picked or harvested it’s actually at its optimum or its best. Our ancestors used to forage foods if they were available and moved on to growing foods but, foraging didn't die away because it was a good source of topping up and storing foods and nature provided this.

Interestingly our wonderful autumnal berries which are high in energy and vitamin C would be collected and eaten during the autumn season. They would be preserved to provide energy and immune system support during the winter ahead. Our winter vegetables such as potato, turnip, swede, carrot, parsnip and squashes are very good for storing over a long period of time, even unrefrigerated and they provide a great source of energy, the B complex, vitamin C, magnesium and calcium. The winter greens provide a great source of minerals including iron.

How do we find seasonal foods?

A really good source of seasonal foods is a local farmer's market where you can walk around the stalls and talk to the farmers who grew the food.

Also, if you go to a market regularly you will see that the produce will change month by month. Foods will rotate so at times you will see rhubarb or berries, root vegetables, beets, green vegetables, summer leaves. This is because the farmers are following the seasons and selling what is ready.

Farmers are slightly different to grocers as they are selling what they grow and harvest whereas grocers will source their fruit and vegetables from a supplier so some of the food would have come from overseas.

If you don’t have access to a farmer's market you can still use the supermarkets but shop wisely. Check the labelling of the supermarket food and see if it has been sourced from a British farmer generally it has a Union Jack symbol or similar on the packaging.

Even doing this doesn't always guarantee that you're eating seasonal vegetables. For example, strawberries can be obtained all year round and may have been forced-grown in a polytunnel.

What are the advantages of eating seasonal food?

Fresh produce has greater taste and greater nutritional value because it’s been picked at the point when fruit or vegetable is at their optimum. When farmers are harvesting, that produce will be in abundance so the cost will be cheaper, so eating seasonally can save you money.

Generally, when food is eaten seasonally because of the freshness, it’s higher with nutritional value such as antioxidants, vitamin C, carotene and folate.

Why should we avoid overseas transported foods?

We've become very accustomed to eating fruit throughout the year so we are at times eating out of season and eating what would not naturally grow in the UK anyway. It is also important to remember that these foods have travelled many miles, so their carbon footprint is large.

To be ripe for the shelf, they’re picked early so they haven’t reached their optimum. This can mean that their nutritional value is less. Also, they are often sprayed to prevent bacterial growth.

There are agricultural areas overseas which do not regulate their soil condition and/or they fortify the soil with additives, so heavy metals and other contaminants can leach into the food chain.

There are also at times poor hygiene practices, and this has affected populations in the past. For example, in Australia, they had a large contamination of hepatitis A brought about by ingesting frozen berries which had been imported from China. This was due to poor hygiene practices.

Another example of how food can be corrupted is garlic. This wonderful food is irradiated and bleached so it has its white colour and retains it. It is also sprayed with a chemical called methyl bromide which enables it to survive long-haul trips without decomposing or ripening more.

Therefore if you see that tomatoes and cucumbers and other produce are in short supply because of transport issues, import and export issues or poor crops overseas, it is worth remembering that our own lands supply foods which are much more appropriate and better quality.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Faversham ME13 & Folkestone CT19
Written by Victoria Shorland, Nutritionist, Allergy Testing, Phlebotomist, Faversham, Kent
Faversham ME13 & Folkestone CT19

Victoria Shorland runs The Therapy Clinic Rooms from Faversham, Kent. The clinic offers integrated services:

Blood Testing.
Food intolerance testing available with instant results.
Specialist IBS/IBD clinic.
Candida/FODMAP clinic.
Consultant Nutritionist clinic.

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