Food historians, scientists and chefs are hosting a day of free talks and curated menus to help people rediscover lost or local foods under a new campaign to celebrate diversity.
The first Food Diversity Day will take place on Friday 13 January, organised by Radio 4’s The Food Progamme presenter and author of Eating to Extinction, Dan Saladino.
Talks will run every hour from 9am with a high-profile line-up of speakers including doctor and nutritionist Tim Spector, food historian Polly Russell and food policy expert Tim Benton of Chatham House.
A food diversity menu will be available to taste at the British Library and Wakehurst botanic gardens, while chefs including Michael Caines, Gill Meller and Thomasina Miers, will use rare foods on specially curated menus, dishes or recipes that can be created at home.
The campaign aims to raise awareness of the importance of food diversity, and our current reliance on a tiny fraction of available foods. Just three plants – rice, wheat and maize – provide 50 per cent of all calories, and when added to potato, barley, palm oil, soy and sugar (beet and cane) they account for 75 per cent of all calories.
Greater diversity in diets creates a more resilient food system that is better protected against climate change, helps protect cultural traditions, practices and flavour, and increases soil and ecosystem health.
Saladino said: “Writing Eating to Extinction filled me with wonder and fear because I realised how desperately the world needs food diversity for the future, and how quickly it’s being lost. But we can make a difference by coming together, celebrating what we have and playing a role in saving endangered foods.
“I believe January 2023 is the perfect time to start a new food narrative. This is usually a time of year when we’re traditionally being told to eat less, but we can send out the message that we need to eat more (diversity, that is).
Elsewhere on the day, bakers Wing Mon Cheung and Kimberley Bell will talk about endangered grains and baking skills, while gardening journalist Alys Fowler and founder of organic veg box company Riverford Guy Singh-Watson will talk about the importance of diversity in seeds.
Other talks will include experts from across the UK to explore what food diversity looks like in terms of diets, cities, environment, oceans and common staples such as bread and grains.
Schools will be invited to host lessons on why food diversity matters, and a whole set of resources will help people explore food diversity in their own backyard.
“My hope is that Food Diversity Day becomes a week-long annual event held in a different season each year, a fixture in the calendar that creates new opportunities to discover the richness of British food culture,” Saladino added.
Registration for the free Food Diversity Day talks is available here.