The Future 50 Foods

“Future 50 Foods is the beginning of a journey and a way for people to make a change, one delicious dish at a time.” –WWF/Knorr Future 50 Report

Several years ago my interest in the sustainable food movement began. Volunteering at the farmers market and finding other ways to shop for local, sustainably-raised food became a kind of obsession. I volunteered at the Sustainable Food Center. I spent a few years eating as a vegan. I’ve read Dan Barber’s book Third Plate twice. When it comes to mindful eating, I’ve been on board for awhile.

My views have evolved over the years. The roll industrialized agriculture plays in damaging the environment has only become more apparent to me. As the population continues to expand, the urgency to find new ways to feed the world increases. Dangerous mono-crops threaten the vitality of the entire industry and continue to wreak havoc on ecosystems. The Future 50 Foods report, compiled by Knorr and the World Wildlife Fund, is the best compilation I’ve seen which offers solutions to the food crisis. Solutions in the form of nutrient dense foods that are easy to produce en mass.

Biodiversity is key when considering the possible effects of what we eat. The report asserts the importance of eating a variety of food, siting that “75% of the global food supply comes from only 12 plant and 5 animal species.” Finding new foods, new varieties, new flavors should be an imperative as we look for ways to help the environment. Establishing a demand for unfamiliar foods like bambara groundnuts or fonio is challenging, but doable. Think of the rise of kale and quinoa in American cooking. We can eat our way into sustainability by making the foods on this list more mainstream.

Why it matters: Affordability.

“Local,” “sustainable,” “organic” — these words though important, have come to be more of a status symbol than an environmental practice. After all, these types of local, sustainable and organic foods often are priced to reflect the demand for such labels. The Future 50 list is different. It is about choosing foods that are inexpensive to farm and inexpensive to consume. Foods that often grow well in poor or unpredictable climates. Foods that are affordable in every sense of the word. They cost the earth minimal energy to produce. Many foods on the list invest valuable nitrogen back into the soil, bolstering the ecosystem rather than draining it. Sustainability is only truly effective if every class of person can be involved, not just the affluent. Eating the Future 50 Foods is not a class signal, it is a pragmatic and inexpensive way to eat healthy. It is about health for the body and health for the world.

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