Interview with Nina Osswald – A holistic look at what we eat

Photo of Nina Osswald doing some gardening

Nina is joining our Sustainable Food Month as a judge for our sustainable recipe contest and will offer an online cooking class.

Hello Nina, thank you very much for joining us. Tell us, how did you get to work with food in the first place? 

I’ve been interested in food and sustainability for a long time, but I really only came to work with food more directly while I lived in India for a few years doing research about the Indian market for organic food. That experience had a huge impact on my career – my whole life actually – both professionally and in terms of my own diet. I gradually learned more about how important agroecological food production is for restoring our collapsing global systems – for instance the climate, nitrogen cycle, soils and biodiversity. And the older I got the more I also realised how much my health depends on eating really well.

From doing academic research on organic food, I then got drawn towards working practically with food as well, and started teaching cooking classes. I did a training in organic cooking and nutrition back in Germany from which I learned a lot, and I volunteered on several organic farms and permaculture projects to learn more about how real food is grown. 

What’s your day job? 

For the last two years, I’ve been the Coordinator at Good Food Oxford, Oxfordshire’s sustainable food network. 

What do you find the most fascinating about the food system in the UK?  

One thing that I’m really impressed with is the Sustainable Food Places Network in the UK. I first came to know about it through some very interesting networking events with London Food Link that I attended a few years ago, and I’m really proud that I’m now a part of this movement. There are of course a lot of problems with the food system everywhere nowadays, but at the same time there are many wonderful people and organisations working towards better food and farming. This became very vivid for me again this month at the Oxford Real Farming Conference, which happened online with a global reach for the first time this year. 

What does a sustainable diet or food system mean for you? 

I think we have to think about food more holistically. I’ve been vegetarian for over 25 years, but I increasingly realised that from an ecological as well as ethical point of view it’s equally important where what we eat comes from, how it’s produced and under which conditions. So I try to strike a balance of looking at what I eat holistically – for instance by buying from local organic producers and independent grocery stores, minimising processed food, foraging and growing veg for myself, eating with the seasons and eating predominantly whole plant foods while also not getting too obsessed with it all. At the moment I’m especially interested in learning more about vegan-organic growing. There are some great examples of stock-free vegetable producers in the UK, and I hope to visit more of them at some point. 

Do you have a favourite food or a guilty pleasure? 

Good questions. Favourite food is difficult, but I think I’d go for Hokkaido squash. Guilty pleasure – hazelnut chocolate! Though it has to be vegan, organic and Fairtrade of course, so only a little guilty!

What about your least favourite food? 

Least favourite food is tricky to say... there are many things I wouldn’t even consider “food”, but let’s not go into that. I think I’d say chili, and raw onions or garlic, they really don’t agree with me. 

Thank you very much Nina, we will hear more from you later in the month. 

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