Published on 16 July, Part Two of the National Food Strategy is the first comprehensive review of the food system in 75 years. It calls for historic reform to the food system to protect the NHS, improve the health of the nation and save the environment. The Strategy’s author Henry Dimbleby calls on the Government to commit to a package of reforms in order to build a better food system for a healthier nation.
The document paints a bleak picture of the UK food system, highlighting how diets contribute to approximately 64,000 deaths every year in England alone costing the economy an estimated £74 billion. Unhealthy food is now cheaper per calorie than healthy food and the vast majority of money spent on food advertising promotes unhealthy ‘junk’ food. There is also a clear correlation between poverty and the density of fast-food outlets with double the number in the poorest neighbourhoods.
The Strategy also warns us that our eating habits are destroying the environment, which in turn threatens our food security. The food we eat accounts for around a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, and is the leading cause of biodiversity destruction, and yet over a quarter of the food grown in the UK is never eaten!
Following in the footsteps of Brighton and Hove, the first place to establish a food partnership and the first UK city to win the prestigious Gold Sustainable Food Places award in November 2020, food partnerships have also been set
up in Adur & Worthing, Lewes District, Wealden, Mid Sussex, Eastbourne and Hastings.
As well as having their own local focus, the Sussex food partnerships work together on common food issues across the county and share information and good practice. The partnerships welcome the National Food Strategy particularly as it takes a whole systems approach, something they have long advocated for. Issues such as food poverty, obesity, ill health, food security and climate change are all interwoven.
The local partnerships call on Government and food businesses to implement the Strategy’s 14 recommendations which include a landmark Sugar and Salt Reformulation Tax, expansion of Free School Meals and a major overhaul of food education.
Caroline Tradewell, Eastbourne Food Partnership steering group member and development officer at 3VA, said:
“We are delighted that whole-systems approaches and collaborative, partnership working are being clearly recognised as crucial to improving our broken food system. The national strategy sets out clearly the risks to health and the environment from current practices, and clear recommendations to change this, from national to local policy. The Eastbourne Food Partnership brings together the network of food-related organisations, individuals and policy makers, and we are currently collaborating on a town-wide food strategy document. So, we particularly welcome the recommendation for all local authorities to put in place a food strategy, developed with reference to the National Food Strategy’s goals and metrics and in partnership with the communities they serve.”