Exploring the topic of sustainable food

Dennis Touliatos, a PhD student at Lancaster University, reports on the summer school at the Lancaster Environment Center (LEC).

dennis toul

One of the many things that we do here in LEC is working with schools to inspire the future  generations of environmental scientists, geographers and biologists. Well, we aim to  inspire, but at the same time we can’t help but feel inspired by the creativity, motivation  and clarity of thought brought by the young teenagers that take part in LEC’s activities.

Last week was one of these inspiring moments. A group of 6th form students from all over  the UK visited LEC for a three day summer school.

On the first day we played a board game called “Diet in a box” which was designed by Dr Beth Brockett, an ex-PhD student at LEC. The game aims to familiarize students with current food security issues, such as the price and nutritional content of everyday foods. The game also explored the wider and often overlooked issues, such as the impacts of everyday foods on animal welfare, greenhouse gas emissions and water use.

To play the game the students had to design their ideal meal for a day; making sure they obtained enough calories and a good balance of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Then they looked beyond nutrition and evaluated the impacts of their meal on the environment, animals and workers in the food production industry.

The students mainly chose meat and dairy-based diets which had high calorie and fat contents and most strikingly, some chosen diets had more than twice the recommended protein intake. Their meal choices also scored low in the animal welfare, greenhouse gas emission and water resource impact categories.

Taking on board what they learned from the game, the students then visited restaurants and food shops on campus to investigate what sort of foods were available and if it was possible for a Lancaster University student to eat a sustainable and ethical diet whilst studying on campus. They found that they could achieve this by seeking out Fairtrade and organic products, and by picking fresh veg and fruit from the edible gardens at the Eco Hub and in Pendle Square.

It was very inspiring to see how, in just a couple of days, the board game introduced a new set of values to the students. They digested the information quickly and used it to critically evaluate the world around them. I couldn’t help but feel optimistic after the summer school and confident that this new generation will have a good grasp of how to make the world a better place.

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