What is the Hunger gap?
You might be surprised to know that every year, Britain experiences a brief period of what is known as the ‘Hunger gap’ (sometimes also called the ‘Hungry gap’) – typically between March to May. However, since modern food systems and supermarkets ensure that we have a continuous supply of various food, we never actually have to go hungry.
But back in the days when people didn’t have access to supermarkets, they had to get through these months relying on crops like potatoes and cabbage. This is because of UK’s geography – with a relatively high latitude, spring crops cannot be grown any earlier as it would be too cold. Also, by the time we reach April, much of the winter crops like turnips, carrots and swede are running short.
Although typically, the UK supplements this deficit with imports from abroad, this year’s hunger gap has been especially bad. With COVID19 disrupting supply chains, BREXIT delaying food imports, and the terrible weather this spring, it’s been more challenging than usual to access food without relying on unsustainable means. As a result, many retailers have had to rely on airfreighted foods from countries far away (Thailand, Mexico, Indonesia…etc.) or excessive heating in local greenhouses.
What can we do?
Whilst we can’t change the weather, we can still find more sustainable solutions to bridge this hunger gap. For example, we can opt to eat seasonal local produce, albeit less variety compared to other periods of the year, or look for foods that have been transported using land or sea from relatively nearby countries.
The period during the hunger gap does imply limited food variety, but you can still reach out for the unique crops that can grow. This includes produce like wild garlic, asparagus and potatoes. Alternatively, you could experiment more with mushrooms or foraged plants like wild nettles, sea purslane and rock samphire.
Trying preserved food
Instead of sticking to the same eating patterns year-round, you can take advantage of this hunger gap and explore preserved food. Meat products such as chorizo or salami are great for this, and we also have a wide variety of chutneys, jams and spreads on our market.
Although it may feel inconvenient, the hunger gap serves as a gentle reminder of the natural cycles that our crops operate on. When we work with nature, there will inevitably be periods where product availability might be short – but that’s part of living in harmony with our land. We were never meant to be eating the same produce all year round. Having these periods of hunger gaps encourages us to find creative alternative approaches to eating and appreciate the periods of abundance that much more.