Climate Change

Climate Change: Where Does Our Fruit Come From?

As we recognize how dependent we are on food from across the world amid the Covid-19 pandemic, it raises the question of how the UK could become more self-sufficient. For example, today the UK is only 31% self-sufficient in apples, yet we have the capacity to grow and store our own all year round. Also, as more fuel is used in transporting goods from across the world, the climate emergency also raises the issue of food miles.

In this activity the students explore the concept of food miles related to fruit and considers how we could become more self-sufficient.

Purpose 

To understand What is Happening by exploring the concept of food miles and the arguments for sourcing our food locally. 

Curriculum: Mathematics and geography.

Materials 

Sets of cards should be prepared from the activity sheet below to show:

  1. Where fruit has travelled from to the UK in autumn when our own fruit trees and bushes are available
  2. The food miles travelled.
  • A globe of the Earth.
  • A blank map of the Earth.
  • Blu-tack.

Groupings 

  • KS2/3. Children work in pairs.

Procedure

Using the picture cards, ask each pair to pick a card and find its country of origin on the world map and attach it to the map.

Teacher Question

  • Why do you think so little of our fruit comes from the UK? Useful fact: Over 60% of the UK’s apple orchards have been destroyed in the last 30 years. 
  • What distance has your fruit has travelled?
  • Whole Class: Can you line up according to the distance travelled? 
  • Pairs: Can you find out how many Kg of carbon it takes to transport the fruit? This will depend on whether the fruit is transported by airfreight, ship or lorry. The young people can research this online. NB this will depend on season of the year. 
  • Does it matter that our fruit has travelled across the world to get here? 

Useful facts: transporting delicate foods long distances requires packaging to protect them. The further fruit and vegetables have travelled, the more their vitamin and mineral content deteriorates.  

  • Look at the packaging around the fruit on the picture cards – why is this a problem? 

Useful fact: 60% of our household waste is packaging, much of it plastic from food. Most of this ends up in landfill and much finds its way into the oceans. 

What Could We Do About It?

Introduce the idea of community orchards that could grow fruit in every locality. 

  • Are there any community orchards near the school?
  • What would be the advantages of community orchards? 
  • (Hint: free fruit, health benefits, engaging community to care for trees, trees provide cleaner air and connection to nature, could transform underutilized public land into a productive space for the community). 
  • Are there public spaces where the young people can plant fruit trees?

There are plenty of websites with guidelines of how to do this. 

Follow Up Work

Ask students to work in groups of 4 and write down everything they have eaten for the last 24 hours. Get them to sort the food items as follows:

  • Fresh food; Processed food.

Take all the items under fresh food and ask them to decide if the food was:

  • Grown in Britain; Imported from abroad. 
  • Can they check if they got it right? 

What reasons do they give for thinking food is imported?

Possible reasons: 

  • We don’t have the climate to grow it here, e.g. rice, bananas, tea. 
  • We can’t grow it here in winter, for example soft fruits and some vegetables.
  • We choose to import it rather than grow ourselves, e.g. cheese, apples, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, lettuce.
  • The item can’t grow here in winter. 
  • Can they find out what can be grown in the UK in winter? 
  • How would our diet change if we could only eat what could grow here in season?
  • Some vegetables are flown here all year round, fresh vegetables from Africa, potatoes from the Middle East, fruit from Latin America. These foods are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

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