Knowledge for better food systems

Sustainable Diets in Eastern Europe

FCRN Admin's picture

This forum exchange was initiated as a response to Dana's blog-post Supporting more East-West knowledge exchange and partnership.  In it, Dana makes a plea for a greater focus on issues around food system sustainability in Central and Eastern European countries, aimed at sparking further discussions on how best to create meaningful links between researchers and practitioners in Western and Eastern Europe. 

What aspects do you find as key for defining sustainable diets in the respective Eastern European countries/regions? What practices should be preserved and what do you think needs to be changed?

These are the questions I've been wondering about for quite some time here in the Czech Republic. And some of the ideas that come to my mind are:

  • "Sustainable Diets" = diets that do not cause imbalance in biogeochemical cycles - locally and globally (regarding carbon, nitrogen, phophorus, sulphur, heavy metals, etc.) meaning that the ways of production are as close to natural systems and cycles as possible, but at the same time providing adequate nutrition to the population over many generations
  • Growing some part of own food desirable, but ecological practices should be favoured over artificial (over)fertilisation and high levels of pesticide/herbicide use
  • Some level of foraging for wild foods is desirable in my opinion, but this needs to be in balance with the ability of the ecosystems to naturally recover from the foraging activities = "taking some, but not too much" and the limit of "too much" should to be given for each region/locality by biologists and local authorities (especially for species that could suffer from the foraging practices)
  • Also not forgetting about the socio-economic aspects, e.g. the diet should be accessible to all regardless of their position in society and financial situation, the workers should be treated fairly, etc.

What are your thoughts on this? Any feedback or further ideas? (surely there are many things that I haven't covered)

L_Aleksandrowicz's picture
Submitted by L_Aleksandrowicz (not verified) on

(*Reposting publicly a direct message I had sent Dana a few weeks ago)

رؤية الرسول في الحلم

Hi Dana, I agree with you. I'm a PhD student at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, working in the area of sustainable diets as well. I like the more comprehensive approach of thinking about sustainability - using various environmental indicators (not just greenhouse gas emissions), but also economic, health and social aspects. I've seen a few reports now that are starting to take this approach, which I think is a great way forward.

رؤيا الرسول

I think there are some trade offs with things like organic food or growing own food - they may be less environmentall efficient than more commercially-produced food, but the more comprehensive approach allows us to see their benefits in terms of health and social/ethical/cultural benefits. 

تفسير الاحلام

I'm originally Polish, and grew up in Canada. I agree with you that sustainability in terms of climate change and some forms of resource use is still quite a foreign concept in Eastern Europe - but I also think back to my Grandmother who was very resourceful, loved growing her own fruits and veg, and was sceptical of packaged/'modern' food. Perhaps some of these values remain in the minds of consumers in that region, and could be leveraged to promote sustainable diets. Best of luck with your work, and would be interesting to see some updates on what you are working on.

DanaK's picture
Submitted by DanaK (not verified) on

Hi Lukasz,

thaks very much for adding your view to the public forum - much appreciated!

I'd like to highlight one of the words that you used in describing your grandma's attitute to (certainly not only) food - you said she was very "resorceful". I agree this is perhaps still one feature common in CEE regarding food. Many people are still very resourceful and I wonder whether there are any studies looking into this aspect. Some of the questions that come to my mind are:

Is "resourcefulness" directly linked to how rich people are? Or is it also affected by culture and tradition in CEE? Can it be somehow supported in the society so that people stay resourceful and waste less?

Would be great to know the answers to these questions - I think they might help us in the quest for finding sustainable diets and the way to them.

Good luck with your work too. And feel free to add any other thoughts to the forum here as they arise.

Thanks and best wishes, Dana