Food Security

Tags: Food

- by Maria Vlasova

We consume food every single day, and it inevitably has a tremendous impact on us. And as food spoils, that as well not only affects our budget, but also health and even environment. Then there is a question, what we can do with food spoilage? How to preserve and keep food for more time? And here comes the topic of food security. 
 
So, what is food security and how it can help us to deal with food spoilage? Food security is simply about how to keep food safe for your body as long as possible. And there is a lot of tips how to do it. From advises on hygiene to food canning and preserving. 

Surprisingly, many people lack knowledge about this field. If more people are made aware of food preserving and food security, would there be less food waste or for example, as an outcome less greenhouse emissions? We often forget about the scale of human consumption and its consequences, so when reading this article, remember that even small changes in everyday habits can have a huge impact.

WHY DOES FOOD GO BAD?

How often did it happen that you suddenly find mold spot on your bread or that the vegetables after only few days of storage become no that appealing to eat? There is usually a simple reason why it occurred. There are many factors that affect the duration of food storage: time, temperature, physical damage and etc. And there are several main contributors to food spoilage:

  • Microorganisms. No surprise here, it’s usually the most common reason of the food spoilage. Temperature, humidity and oxygen are the major factors affecting the growth of microorganisms. The microorganisms can be found in any environment, for example, as a bacteria on your hands. So before opening the bag with your bread, it’s better to wash your hands and dry them. Simple as that.
  • Oxygen. Oxygen means Oxidation. When we leave a piece of apple on the table it becomes brown after a while. This is the process of oxidation. To prevent it, oxygen should be restricted from food (containers with lids can be a good solution).
  • Other possible reasons: enzymes, insects, rodents, parasites, physical damage, temperature, light, time. To put it shortly, you need to know what conditions are the most suitable for given type of food and what are the possible threatens to your food. With that knowledge it’s easier to keep food fresh for longer time.

There are certain types of food that spoil faster than other. For example, if you put mayonnaise in your salad and put it to fridge it can only be stored for 2 days. If you don’t put mayonnaise, “raw” salad can be in the fridge for much longer than two days. It is better to keep in mind this difference in allowed storage time and not cook too much food.

HOW TO AVOID FOOD SPOILS AND WASTE?

Some tips were already shared previously, but it surely better to make the whole list to see all of them: 

  • Different food needs different conditions of storage. 
  • Check how food is stored in the shop. For example, tomatoes and cucumbers are usually not kept in the fridge, but some other vegetables do. Also, there is always information available online.
  • Common hygiene: wash your hands, dry them.
  • Consume reasonably. Do not buy more food than you can eat. Plan your meals ahead of time and go to the shop with an idea what kind of food will you need for that.
  • No or limited amount of oxygen (for example, use containers with lids).
  • Check your food. Is there physical damage of packaging? Is there mold? Are there any rodents or insects? It is better to check your food from time to time to see if there any problems.

ABOUT CONSERVATION (CANNING)

Why there is separate paragraph only dedicated to the topic of conservation? And how is it related to food security? 

Canning in its core, is the safest way to preserve food for quite a long time as the high temperature destroys bacteria and tight seals do not let oxygen or other microorganism enter the food. Canned fish can be stored for 1 year (or more), while frozen – 270 days. Canned strawberry can be stored for 720 days, while refrigerated for only 13. (Hammond, S.T. et al. 2015) From a convenience perspective, it is surely easier to buy ready canned food in supermarket, but from sustainable and economical side that may not be the best option. Why?

  • First, there are many stages of food transporting before finally canning it and then ready product should be distributed to all shops. Imagine the carbon footprint of all this chain.
  • Fair trade. It’s made by you and there was no cheap human labor involved.
  • Reusable jars (=> zero waste).
  • Long shelf-life.
  • Possibility to use more local and seasonal food.
  • Second, taste can be not the best. There is quite a high chance that your family recipe of fermented cabbage would be much tastier than one bought in the shop.
  • Canned food can be quite expensive compare to homemade one. Especially in Finland.

As we are paying attention in our guide to a sustainable way of consuming and preparing food, we encourage you to try canning food by yourself. It is sustainable, it can be fun and creative!
There are many other different ways to preserve food: drying, salting, smoking, etc. So if you want to try other preservation methods or feel that canning is not really your thing, you can always try other methods of keeping food for longer time.

One of the best ways to re-purpose kitchen waste is to turn it into compost. Read on to the section section Home Compost, to get an insight into the simplicity and the process.

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