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Swap bolognaise beef for beans to help the world's poor, says Oxfam

Oxfam Ireland says using beans as a substitute for meat once a week can help to save energy and restore the food balance.

Oxfam says buying Fair Trade products like coffee or chocolate can help small independent farmers in poorer countries.
Oxfam says buying Fair Trade products like coffee or chocolate can help small independent farmers in poorer countries.
Image: Toby Talbot/AP

MOTHERS PREPARING the family meals for a week have been advised to replace meat with beans or lentils once a week – a move which could help to “fix the world’s broken food system”.

The suggestion is part of a new worldwide campaign by Oxfam to address the world’s food imbalance, pointing out that the amount of food thrown away by people in richer countries is almost the same amount as that produced by all of sub-Saharan Africa.

The campaign follows a survey carried out among mothers living in urban areas, in which 73 per cent said they would like to know how to make a difference when shopping for food, and 83 per cent said they would be interested in using less energy when cooking.

Oxfam Ireland said the results of the survey – which also showed over three-quarters of respondents saying they would be happy to make changes like offering one meat-free meal a week – showed an opportunity to harness “the immense power of the individual”.

Chief executive Jim Clarken said the campaign hoped to get across the message that individual people can together be “a powerful force for change”.

“What we do in the supermarket or in the kitchen does matter. Small actions taken by enough people add up,” he said.

Oxfam’s five suggestions are:

  • Eating less meat: Oxfam says urban households in the US, UK, Brazil and Spain ate one meat-free meal per week for a year, the greenhouse gas emissions saved would be the equivalent of scrapping 3.7 million cars;
  • Reduce food waste: If one in six apples is thrown away, this adds up to 5.3 billion apples a year – the equivalent to 10 billion barrels of oil in terms of growing, trading and decomposing the apples thrown away;
  • Support small food producers: The welfare of 90,000 cocoa farms could be transformed if consumers bought two Fair Trade chocolate bars per month instead of an alternative;
  • Buy seasonal: Buying food that is out of season creates extra demand for it, which results in the use of more energy for storage and production;
  • Cook smarter: Simple actions like putting a lid on a boiling pot can cut energy use by up to 70 per cent.

“If enough people act, the reverberations will be felt right along the food chain,” Clarken said.

Oxfam International’s full report on the global food system can be downloaded here.

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Gavan Reilly

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