So, you spotted that the National Food Strategy was published in the height of the summer and, like many, bookmarked the link and told yourself you’d read it on a day off or holiday if you’ve managed to squeeze one in. Like many, again, perhaps life has got in the way and you haven’t had the chance to read it.
The Food Made Good Groups & Chains Working Group were privileged to have a briefing with the strategy’s director Tamsin Cooper – an opportunity for her to outline the process, the contents, the recommendations and indeed the reactions. The report is after all 288 pages, which she says isn’t intended to sit on a shelf gathering dust. Rather, it’s designed to be an action plan for government, business and citizens.
What’s in the Strategy?
In terms of the content, Tamsin distilled this down. Our food system is both a miracle and a disaster. Huge choice and flexibility come at the price of food that’s making us and the planet sick.
To make the market function better, she said, we need to break the Junk Food Cycle which sees us addicted to these low cost highly profitable foods high in fat, sugar and salt. We also need to make nature more visible and address food’s impact on it. Findings from the many focus groups undertaken for the strategy showed citizens wanted help. They didn’t want to be lectured, but they wanted support from government, retailer and restaurants in making the right choice for them and their families.
When it comes to meat, Tamsin said the authors of the report viewed it in the wider context of land. The report recommends some land is used intensively using the very best technology, some land is used in much less intensive way and the third section of land is released for carbon sequestration, foresting and wild nature. To allow for this land release, we need to reduce meat consumption.
How does the strategy propose we do that?
Replacing meat with alternative proteins in processed food and potentially in government procurement, which as it accounts for 20 billion meals a year, could have a massive impact. Tamsin said the real success will come in two ways, cracking the narrative about ‘better meat’ being about nature and not just carbon, and normalising lower meat options and alternatives both in retail and on menus
What happens next?
Ministers, business leaders, the media and citizens have all been reviewing the strategy. And in six months the strategy’s author, Henry Dimbleby will assess the Government response across all relevant departments. Really significantly, Tamsin said that business leaders almost universally said they were looking to Government for legislation to enact many of the 14 recommendations, including those on reformulation, to ensure a level playing field for all.
Tamsin and Henry are both all ears for further ideas for shifting the dial on our food system and would be welcome any and all feedback. Here at the SRA we’ll be monitoring progress carefully and happy to act as a conduit., so do get in touch if there are any points you’d like to pick up relating to this hugely significant piece of work.
For the full report click here.