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19 JUL 2012

Urban mothers want to help fix the broken food system, Oxfam report sets out practical actions to feed world’s poorest families

Mothers across the world want to know what changes they can make to the way they buy, store and prepare food to help the environment and tackle hunger, according to a new global survey released by Oxfam today. Oxfam has outlined five simple changes we can all make to help fix a broken global food system that leaves nearly a billion people hungry every day.
Overall, 73% 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. 83% 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.

The results show a clear opportunity to harness the immense power of the individual – in particular 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. 

“Women across the globe are concerned about the way food is produced and the people who produce it,” said 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.”

A new Oxfam report The Food Transformation: Harnessing Consumer Power to Create a Fair Food Future sets out five practical actions which, if taken by enough people around the world, 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 is 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, US 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 is 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%.

“What we do in the supermarket or in the kitchen does matter”, said Roche. “Together we can make a big difference to the lives of people who are struggling to feed their families across the globe. 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.” 

The survey of over 5100 mothers living in towns and cities in Brazil, India, Philippines, UK, US 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% of mothers in the Philippines feel they know how the food choices they make affect the wider world compared to just 46% in the US. As well, 60% of women surveyed in India felt a connection to food producers compared to just 23% in the UK.