Can we revamp the food system?
Discussing Part Two of the National Food Strategy
There is a genuine understanding that we must change the way we eat and drink, the way we care for ourselves and communities, and the way we support our farmers, and hospitality industries. The research has shown for years that changing our diets, lifestyles and environments can reduce the impact of diet and lifestyle diseases on our nation’s health. Part 2 of the National Food strategy provides practical recommendations that can be implemented to begin this necessary change.
Starting with breaking the ‘junk food cycle’ by supporting the implementation of healthy diets with changes to food marketing and labelling as we see with the removal of ‘buy one get one free’ on confectionary and the 9pm watershed ban on junk food adverts. Recommendations include an ‘eat and learn’ initiative for children aged 3-18 years where those involved will learn how to eat well.
Moving into abolishing the inequality that our food system and politics have created, and the pandemic has exacerbated. The National Diet and Nutrition Survey demonstrates that children from low-income families consume 29% less fruit and vegetables and 17% less fibre, all vital components of a nutritious diet. One way to tackle this is buy providing cooking and nutrition education to them. Providing culinary skills and knowledge allows people to feel confident in their ability to feed themselves and their families. A key recommendation from the strategy to the government, sees an extension of the eligibility for free school meals where for many this free meal is their only meal of the day.
In this conversation, we cannot forget about our farmers and food producers who play a vital role in human health and planet health. Farmers should have access to support and guaranteed funding to support their livelihoods and businesses, whilst ensuring they use recommended nature-based solutions to restore nature and climate. The strategy recommendations include trial of a community Eatwell programme working with professionals and local services to support healthy eating. This includes a Eatwell prescription for free fruit and vegetables, access to local cooking classes and can allow GPs to prescribe therapeutic activities such as community gardens and food-growing projects. Alongside the guarantee of a budget for agricultural payments to support farmers in the transition to sustainable land usage.
Finally, we need to change our culture to see long term benefits. Changing the way, we all operate will provide support to human and nature’s health. The strategy calls for a £1 billion investment into transforming the food system. Prioritising farmers innovation, encouraging fruit and vegetable growing and alternative protein sources such as soya products, lentils, beans, peas, fermented proteins (i.e. Quorn,) and insects. We know that a reduction in our meat intake is vital for us all following more sustainable diets, and any meat we do eat needs to be produced in a way that supports biodiversity and nature. The final recommendation calls for clear targets and legislation for long-term change to revamp our food system.
My thoughts can be summed up as, I hope that the government utilises trained healthcare professionals i.e. nutritionists, to support and implement these recommendations. Shifting the focus to good food, increasing the diversity of nature and supporting farming, we will help the health of our planet.