Firstly, what is this term, ‘food miles’? Very simply put, it is the number of miles or kilometres that a food grain or a processed food has travelled from where it has been grown or produced to come to our plate. When I think of this concept or term, a story comes to mind-

On the highway somewhere near Anantpur (in Andhra Pradesh, between Telangana and Karnataka), two trucks collided. Unfortunately, both the drivers passed away on the spot and the highway was blocked for some time. And there were tomatoes every where! Both the trucks were full of tomatoes- one carrying tomatoes from Telangana to Karnataka and the other carrying tomatoes from Karnataka to Telangana. Neither did the farmers get any money from their produce, nor did anyone get any food and two innocent lives were lost in the process.

Such is the irony. Our supply chains are in such a dismal state and in a pursuit of standardisation, we’re forgetting how simple and beautiful, ‘local’ is.

In the modern world, where economies of scale drive a lot of market dynamics, food production and consumption- the most primal need of humans is in a rather sorry state. We still have time to reverse this if we start thinking and question our eating habits (and extrapolate this to other things in life as well).

Let’s look at what we eat for our meals. If we’re cooking our meals- let’s assume dal, rice, roti and vegetables- all this has travelled a certain distance; if you’re in a major city like Bangalore, it’s very likely that everything on your plate has come from a different state! Now, imagine the transportation (green house gas emission), packaging, infrastructure and such systems required to bring it to you- all this put together would be our ‘food miles’. And if we’re eating out, the situation worsens. Sometimes ingredients are imported from other countries, even a satchet of ketchup with your burger could have come from thousands of miles away! All this takes an enormous toll on the environment and is not sustainable in the long run.

And if we care for the environment, if we’re looking at what can be done on an individual level- looking at ‘food miles’ and finding ways to reduce them would go a long way. We drew out a 4 step EASY plan to help one in doing this (link to Vijay’s article) but just asking questions and going to the source of things would help!

Next time, look at your plate or parcel of food and try to figure out where each individual item could have come from and what impact has it had on the surroundings? Is there anything that ‘me’ as an individual can do to change it? An example- a friend looked at his plate and thought about the bowl of packaged curd in it. The manufacturing happened at a place some 400km away! There was a dairy making it in the next lane. From that point on, he walked and got curd from that shop in his own container.

Think about the earlier story again! If only the tomatoes that were grown in Telangana were consumed in Telangana! If only the tomatoes that were grown in Karnataka were consumed in Karnataka. One can even think further- do tomatoes really grow naturally in my surroundings? What are the seasonal vegetables around me? Can I get more of those? These questions will lead us closer to the land and help us remain healthy and in tune with nature.

What do you think about ‘food miles’? Did you change any of your habit to reduce ‘food miles’? Share your story with us, let’s do this together! :-)