25 Feb 2019
Icon - Health and Wellbeing

Future 50 Foods report launch – what I thought of the report and the work

By Edwina Hughes.

I recently attended the launch of the Future 50 Foods, a collaboration between Unilever, more specifically the Knorr brand, and WWF with support from Sodexo chefs.

The Future 50 are a diverse collection of foods from across the globe that were carefully chosen with an important goal – healthier people and a healthier planet.

So what’s the problem?

Over the last three generations we’ve been reducing the variety of food we eat to the point where now 75% of the global food supply comes from only 12 plant and five animal species. And just three (rice, maize or corn as well call it, and wheat) account for 60% of the calories from plants. This represents a real purge of variety from our diets and from our farms.

Why does this matter?

First of all, it means that we’re taking a big gamble on a small set of food sources and we might lose. In fact, perhaps we already are – floods, fires, storms …are all putting our food system to the test.  Our supply chains will come under increasing pressure and we’ll struggle to source these items in the future. floods, fires, storms …are all putting our food system to the test.  Our supply chains will come under increasing pressure and we’ll struggle to source these items in the future.

Secondly, we’re veg deficient – from obesity to type 2 diabetes we know we aren’t eating enough veg and it’s impacting our health.  We need to boost the amount of plants people eat to improve diets and variety can help with that.

Thirdly, we’re going to have 10 billion people on planet earth by 2050 we need to come up with new ways to feed this population with the natural resources we’ve currently got and without creating more destruction of our environment.

Because of all these factors and probably many more, it’s time we had another look at what farmers grow, what we source, what chefs use in recipes and what ends up on our consumers’ plates.
The Future 50 Foods work suggests that we need to start to focus on foods that are more robust. For example, those that are drought resistant or don’t need a lot of cultivation can be used in a variety of ways.  And that’s what these 50 foods are – a range of veg, pluses and grains that will help to ensure that the land we cultivate is used to grow things that will sustain the 10 billion people that will be on the planet by 2050.

Some of the 50 are ones we know like beet greens, spinach and watercress.  Others are less well known like fonio (Africa’s oldest cultivated cereal) and moringa (leafy green).  The guide tells us where these foods grow and how they can be prepared.

The work is timely and hopeful; the guide is upbeat and makes these ingredients appealing – this work ties into building a food system where we eat less animal based protein and a larger variety of veg, pulses and grains.

Key messages from the day:
• We can’t continue to deplete forests, water and soil as we are now; we need to switch away from food sources that depend on continuing the trend for depletion
• We don’t need to clear more forests for more grain production
• We do need to reduce our overreliance on very few plants and increase the variety of plants we grow
• The future needs to be delicious!

Check Out Sodexo’s Love of Food – global annual food report where we explore the importance of  plant forward options to our business.

Future50Foods Report 

More info on each of the future 50 foods and how to use them in delicious recipes and cooking tips

For more reading on sustainable food systems a new report from the Lancet in collaboration with the Eat Forum Food, Planet, Health

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