21 September 2010

An Inconvenient Sandwich

Sourced from the new economics foundation, 25 June 2010

'The British appetite for quick, cheap, convenient food that we can eat wherever we happen to be has hidden costs to society, public health and the environment. This report investigates the economic pressures facing independent cafés and sandwich bars which often forces social justice, sustainability and health off the menu.

Being casual about what, when, and where we eat is both a cause and a symptom of the hectic, mobile lives we lead. It helps to shape our aspirations and our sense of identity.

Although casual food is everywhere, the ‘casual eating’ subdivision of the catering sector is overlooked. So diverse that it can seem to defy classification, it has no shared voice or body of knowledge. Nevertheless, it requires closer scrutiny.

Casual food tends to be cheap, is often highly processed, and generates a lot of food and packaging waste. Although it is hugely popular, it is criticised for being unhealthy, and information about where it comes from or what it contains is rarely available when you buy it. Work in the sector is poorly paid, precarious, and sometimes illegal.

The whole food system is under widespread pressure to become more sustainable. Broadly speaking, the challenge is to produce more and better quality food, more ethically, from less land, using fewer resources, and with fewer negative impacts, and to share it more equitably. Efforts to make the food system more sustainable will have to take the social, environmental, and economic impacts of our casual eating habit into account.

This report is based on a series of interviews with the owners of small independent takeaways and cafés.'

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