Food miles and the environment

All food makes a journey from where it is grown or produced to your plate. How far food has travelled is known as its food miles.

We should be aiming for as few miles as possible. Choosing foods with fewer food miles helps reduce pollution and protect our planet.

Healthy snacks such as strawberries and oranges can help explain food miles.

  • Strawberries grown and sold at a local farm have travelled very few food miles before they reach our plate.
  • However, oranges grown in Spain and then transported to our supermarkets by plane and lorry have travelled a lot further.
  • The local strawberries produce a smaller number of food miles than the oranges that travelled from another country.

When adding up food miles you might need to include your journey to and from the shop. If you travelled by car, bus or train, these all create carbon emissions and add to the food miles. Walking or cycling don’t need to be counted and they are healthier too!

Local strawberries produce a smaller number of food miles than the oranges that travelled from another country.

Interesting words

  • food miles – the distance food has travelled to get to your plate. Food must travel from the farm it is grown on or the factory it is made in to a supermarket or shop to be sold.
  • carbon emissions – harmful gases such as carbon dioxide are released into the earth’s atmosphere when we use fossil fuels (coal and oil) to provide energy. We need energy to grow, produce and transport food. Some food uses more energy than others.
  • local – a place close to where you live. Fruit and vegetables that were grown near you would be considered local. A shop in your town would be a local shop as opposed to a shop you had to travel to.
  • transport – moving people, animals, or items for sale like food from one place to another. Food can travel by car, bus, lorry, boat and plane. These methods of transport all need a lot of energy.
Local produce sign at a fruit and veg market

Local food

Fruit and vegetables that were grown near your home would be considered local. This is better for the environment because less energy has been used to get the food to you.

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Try this short quiz to test your knowledge on food miles and the environment.

Challenge

With the help of an adult, investigate what local food is available near you.

  • Is there a farmer’s market or a local fruit and vegetable shop?
  • Are any farms nearby selling eggs?
  • Does a fish van come to your area?
Climate change food calculator
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Food miles and the environment