New Internationalist

A change of diet

Issue 081

by Peter Marshall

Wholefoods are selling well in Britain Fear of the diseases caused by an over-processed and fatty diet has forced many to look more closely at their traditional Sunday lunch. Bran is the panacea for some - refined ladies find solace at their expensive health food shop - but the more concerned are turning to their local whole-food collective.

A number of these have recently formed a Federation of Southern Wholefood Collectives to match their northern counterparts. Their aim is not merely to provide cheap wholesome food for a small planet but to make the public aware of unjust production and distribution.

‘What we are trying to do,’ says Dave Bull of Uhuru health food shop, ‘is to change social and political attitudes in order to bring about a food system based on needs, not profit. About a quarter of the world’s population suffers from malnutrition yet there is enough food for everyone. Hunger is not the result of over­population or of climate, but exists principally because the food chain is controlled by the rich.’ In fact, rich countries with only 26 per cent of the world’s population eat 56 per cent of the world’s food.

They also try and publicize the conditions of the producers. They boycott goods at present from South Africa and Chile and prefer not to buy from Argentina. But they frankly admit they have to compromise. The pickers of Sri Lanka are cruelly exploited but would it help them to refuse to take their tea? And of course it is difficult to know the local situation: the Federation planned to sell Campaign Coffee direct from co­operatives in Tanzania but Nestle have recently stepped in to offer their management expertise and it is no longer clear who are the real suppliers.

The Wholefood Collectives recognize their contradictions: they are in the business of retailing, their customers are mainly middle class and they must work with the food industry. Yet they try to exemplify in their own organisation their political aim of enabling people to control their own resources. All members participate in the decision-making and receive the same wages. They are busy forming links with the growing co-operative movement.

The Federation of Southern Wholefood Collectives is an important social experiment. It offers food which is both nutritionally and ecologically sound and produced with the minimum of suffering. Above all, it publicizes graphically the problems of world development and in its very structure tries to end such problems.

For more information on the F.S.W.C., contact Tantadlin, 53 High Street, Aylesbury, Bucks., or Uhuru, 25 Cowley Road, Oxford. The latter produces the magazine Indigestion.

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