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In her book Women & The Weight Loss Tamasha, nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar explains the concept of ‘food miles’. She believes food that has travelled fewer miles (and hasn’t gone through long transportation, storage or packaging) is the best kind of food for your body. Sure enough, it feels wonderful to eat fruits and veggies that come straight from the farm to the table. But as city-dwellers we know that fresh, local produce is not easily accessible. Luckily for us, a new farmers’ market is coming to town and is hopefully here to stay.

It is set up by Better Foods, a project that endorses the consumption and sale of fresh, locally produced food while creating more access points for it. Of course, it’s a good platform for farmers as well. Founder Subham Kar Chaudhuri and his team are working hard to solve the issues of food quality and food shortage through effective marketing and connectivity in the food industry. They also hope to improve India’s Global Hunger Index ranking (we’re currently 97th out of 118) by working in collaboration with various stakeholders.

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Tanvi Somani, a permaculturist, is the key propagator of the project. We catch up with her to learn more about this wonderful initiative and discover shocking truths about the food we eat!

IB: What are the benefits of buying local food, and how is it different from the food we consume today?

Tanvi: The food we eat today has very little nutrition. It’s not about vegan or paleo or raw diets — it has more to do with whether my carrot tastes like a carrot sans a coloured texture, or whether my carrot actually contains all the necessary nutrients. Food today is grown in locations that have no nutrients left in the field and thus, the plants have weakened immunities. Out come the chemicals to save the crop, which are then sent to the market to be purchased. We cook the same plants, and as modern day cooking is very different from the techniques used earlier, the food ultimately has little or no nutrients left. And we haven’t even mentioned preservatives, plastic usage, rhetorting (done for every shelf glass jar), and so on. These processes make the body think the food we consume is actually foreign material. This releases cortisol with every bite — and for those who don’t know, cortisol’s work is to stop immunity and growth in humans. So, it’s really important to know what goes into your body!

IB: Are there any economic benefits too?

Tanvi: Economic gains are huge for the farmers, as there’s no middleman and they get a far better margin. However, it’s imperative to realise that one pays more for organic food as it contains more nutrients and is better for your body — not because it’s a mere fad. Sustainable is the new organic, and anything sustainable helps make and save money in the long run.

IB: How will this direct relationship between the farmer and the consumer benefit both parties?

Tanvi: It’s all about the margins. The farmers get direct access to the consumer, much like Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has done with the APMC market.

IB: What can we look forward to at the Better Foods Farmers’ Market this weekend?

Tanvi: While it’s a small launch on the 25th, we’re aiming for it to run every Sunday as we hope to create more access points. It is (more like) a produce market that’ll make you more knowledgeable about the food you should be consuming. The aim is to create awareness, while also giving people access to organic food…to see how they feel about taking up a 21-day challenge of eating healthier!

IB: Lastly, what can one expect from Better Foods in the future?

Tanvi: We are reaching out to kids to take them to farms, where we encourage them to pick up a potato plant from the ground. The idea is to make them realise that the fries they consume in five minutes takes three months to grow. They need to respect the growth time of food and the painstaking efforts involved on the field to produce them, which hopefully, will be a building block in tackling the issue of food wastage. Similarly we will try and encourage people to start cooking their own food. The demand for better produce will see people moving away from processed foods, and thus, lead us to a healthier tomorrow.

The Better Foods Farmers’ Market will take place on the 25th and 26th of March at Mahalaxmi Race Course, Mumbai. The entry is free and open to all. For details, visit www.thebetterfoods.com or check out their Facebook page.

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