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June 4, 2008

Fifers find a cause to diet for

It started with a single family from Fife. In the past year they have been joined by 200 other local people who have decided to try to reduce their ecological footprint by only eating food that is produced locally and therefore only food that is in season. As the founder of this new food movement describes it – ‘Martini’food – any time, any place , anywhere – is completely unsustainable

BBC Website

The Fife Diet is based on the principle of developing a diet which has the lowest carbon footprint possible. It is based on consuming less food that has to come into the country by air, is low in meat (to reduce the amount of harmful gases produced by cattle) and involves eating only locally grown fruit and vegetables.

Mike Small said the 200 people who were following the plan were contributing to reducing climate change. He insists: “It’s not a back-to-nature movement rejecting the 21st century. It is a flexible, consciousness-raising exercise to show what realistic changes individuals can make while enjoying local food eaten in season.

The diet is inspired by the 100 Mile diet, which began in Vancouver, Canada, but the distances have been scaled down. In the Canadian version, James McKinnon and his partner, Alisa Smith, spent a year eating only food from within a 100-mile radius of their home, and a year later still eat 85% from inside those boundaries.

“The problem’s not been finding food in Fife all year round, that’s relatively easy, but the time you spend preparing a meal from scratch every day.

“It gives us a bit of an insight into why we eat convenience food because we’re all running around like dafties working too hard and don’t have any time to cook a decent meal.”

Changing habits

The project has relied heavily on people going back to eating food only when it is in season. This has meant that many foods, like bananas and oranges, are completely off the menu to cut down on the carbon emissions produced by the aeroplanes which transport them to the UK.

People instead are directed towards farm shops and farmers markets.

Jacqui Alexander, of Bellfield Organics in Newburgh, said: “To go back to having their root vegetables in the winter and to make their soups and stews is quite an adjustment for people to have to make”

“It is difficult but then a lot of people are interested in it, you can see that at farmers’ markets that people are interested in the different things we grow at different times of year.”

After six months, the Fife Diet is moving into a new phase with land having been secured for a community garden in Falkland.

Mike Small is hoping volunteers will help maintain the patch as a vegetable garden which, he hopes, will encourage more people to exchange foods.

The eating project has attracted the support of Friends of the Earth Scotland.

Chief executive Duncan McLaren said: “Food accounts for about a quarter of household gas emissions. Most of that comes from the methane of animal production. So, a diet like this which is quite low in meat is definitely good for the environment.”