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Eco Forum on demystifying food choices

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The first hybrid Eco Forum was held in St Stephen’s Church, Norwich and online in early May, to consider the complexities around food choices and their environmental impact. Barbara Bryant, Diocesan Environmental Officer shares more:

Aware of the complexities of a global food system that ensures that those with the least resources (in the UK) often resort to cheaper, ultra-processed food and recent research by Future Health highlighting Norfolk as having higher than average rates of malnutrition, we felt it was time to discuss how we can address this within the Eco Church survey that focuses on food.

We believe there is a perception, and a reality, that the LOAF (Local Organic and Fairtrade) principles highlighted in the A Rocha survey are difficult to achieve for many in lower-income communities and for those churches that provide food for their local communities.

Chair of the Environment Working Group, The Revd Canon David Longe chaired a panel discussion with three experts with some lively discussion ensuing in small groups and online.

The panel was Dr Peter Emmrich, a fellow at the John Innes Centre with a speciality in global food sustainability, Anna Sweeting a research fellow at the University of East Anglia Medical School, with a specialism in healthy ageing and health behaviours, particularly in relation to food poverty, and Revd Leon Collyer a vicar and a farmer in Suffolk, is committed to regenerative farming, repairing the damage that intensive farming has done to our land and to nature

Some of the main points that came out from the evening were:

  • Affordability – the hunger in some Norfolk communities means that for some it is a challenge to ensure that a tummy is full no matter what that is.
  • Access/Locality – what is local for one community may look very different to another. For example, ‘local’ food available in Larkman looks different to that in the Golden Triangle which too looks very different to a rural isolated village. It is very evident that fast food/take aways often congregate in communities of deprivation.
  • People are overwhelmed with stress and living in ‘perma-crisis’, healthy eating is often not a priority.
  • Food systems have a massive impact on the climate, accounting for about one third of all emissions globally, we have to bring those down to have any chance of overcoming the climate crisis
  • The most important decisions are not made at the consumer level. But the choices that we do get to make can easily be overwhelming, with so much conflicting information going around on what foods are good or bad for the environment.
  • From a climate perspective, WHAT we eat is far more important than WHERE it comes from and HOW it was produced.
  • Very strong evidence showing the emissions from livestock are huge compared to plant-based foods.
  • Food miles hardly matter compared to emissions from production, land use and processing.
  • So as a rule of thumb, eating food from plants is far better than food from animals, especially beef, lamb and dairy. This is far more important than buying local or organic. As a bonus, plant-heavy diets are generally the cheapest way to fulfil nutritional requirements, here and all around the world
  • For churches, there is an added benefit that plant-based foods are generally acceptable to people with lots of different dietary restrictions, not just vegetarians and vegans, but also people following a kosher or halal diet. So cooking plant-based is a great way to welcome people from many different backgrounds.
  • There needs to be a reconnection between farmers and consumers. Both groups are stuck in systems that prevent healthy choices. A lot of farmers would respond positively to a direct approach from a community to grow their food.

Before and after the discussions, fairtrade tea and coffee was served along with food sourced via food waste apps – a delicious selection of fruit, pastries and cakes.

You can view the recording of the evening below.


Food & Faith workshops

Green Christian are currently running a series of monthly workshops on food-related themes, addressing the latest thinking on Local, Organic, Animal-friendly and Fairly-traded food with a presentation by an expert, followed by a time for questions and discussion. You can find recordings of previous events and how to register for the remaining ones HERE

Food waste

Be Food Savvy – this is a joint project between Norfolk County Council and Suffolk Waste Partnership, full of great tips to share with your congregation/community.


Buy and campaign for fairtrade goods – find out more HERE

Become a fairtrade church – find out more HERE

A Rocha/Eco Church resources of food

Have you started your Eco Church journey yet?

Register as an Eco Church or find out more HERE 

Sign-up for our Eco Newsletter here
Join the conversation on our Facebook group here
Watch the message from Bishop Graham here
For any further help, contact