Can’t they make jam? The post-Brexit food crisis.

I am in the grip of a writer’s conundrum here, on one hand I am doing my utmost to sit on my frustrations and stay out of the Brexit debate, on the other, I like talking about food (and of course eating it). The headlines regarding a potential UK, post-Brexit food crisis appear to have a fair amount of substance behind them. It makes sense, if we only produce 60% of the food we need, then we are going to face a shortage if we struggle to import the rest. On the other hand, our post farm-gate food waste is showing no sign of reducing from the staggering 10.2 million tonnes (7.1 million tonnes for household food waste) reported by WRAP in 2015 (this is, of course, not representative across all households, too many simply don’t have enough to eat). But taking the UK as a whole, by my very simple calculations, if we had a population of 65.13 million in 2015, our household food waste was 0.16 tonnes or 160 kilograms each. That’s the equivalent of 160 medium cantaloupes, which, of course, we will struggle to grow ourselves so won’t be throwing away at all in 2019.

Which kind of brings me to my (quite possibly flawed and simplistic) point. Isn’t there just a chance that, with food shortages looming, we might start to see a few improvements in our relationships with food purchasing, food allocation, UK farming and farmers, and the way we consume what we buy? How many of us really appreciate the hard work and decades of experience that go into farming? How many of us currently grow our own fruit and vegetables, eat local produce in season, use every part of what we buy or understand how to preserve what we don’t immediately eat? Skills such as making jam, pickling onions, boiling bone broths and even picking blackberries are way below the radar of many Brits and most of us have no idea what a pig eats. You only have to examine the expansion of supermarket ‘ready-meal’ aisles to work out these things. If a temporary or even threatened breach in the food supply chain does occur, it would be good to think that, instead of stock-piling, we turned to stock making. A romantic notion I know, but it is one I like.

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