50 days and counting

With just 50 days until the end of the UK’s Transition Period after Brexit, our Executive Director Dan Crossley shares reflections on how the UK food system is looking…

SOME INGREDIENTS ARE IN PLACE

Legislation jigsaw being pieced together – The Agriculture Act has now been passed into law, which – while not with everything we’d want – is landmark legislation promoting public money for public goods. The Trade Bill and Environment Bill are in motion. Will they deliver on the promises made by Government and how will they fit with the Agriculture Act? Trade negotiations are at a critical stage and people waiting with bated breath to see how negotiations with the EU in particular develop. The Environment Bill includes measures intended to stop businesses in the UK importing products linked to deforestation abroad, which is an important addition.

Public support for good food is strong and building – Food citizens across the UK have been mobilised, with support from lots of farming and civil society organisations. Public support for UK farmers with high animal welfare and environmental standards is high (see here). Public support is also strong to protect and further strengthen food standards to avoid being undercut by poor quality imports (see the National Trade Conversations from Which?)

Food has moved up the political agenda – The pandemic put issues around food supply and access to food firmly in the spotlight. After Marcus Rashford et al’s urging to tackle child food poverty, the UK Prime Minister has recently bowed to pressure. Boris Johnson has also responded to the election of Joe Biden as President-Elect by highlighting the UK’s shared interest in addressing climate change. COP26 next year is a real and rare opportunity for the UK to show global leadership on food and climate. The National Food Strategy in England is in its latter stages too and offers hope of a long-term, integrated approach for our food systems.

BUT THERE IS STILL A LOT OF WORK TO BE DONE

A long winter ahead – the period immediately after the end of the transition period will be messy and challenging for lots of people and businesses, with food supplies likely to be affected, too many struggling to access good food, foodservice and hospitality businesses struggling for survival and more…

Sticking plasters won’t last forever – As welcome as Boris Johnson’s change of heart on school holiday support was, we now need to go beyond papering over the cracks. We must push for long-term solutions that empower everyone to participate in the food system and strive to eliminate household food insecurity for all

Racial injustices are still firmly entrenched in our food system and need urgently addressing – in 2021, all involved in the food system (us included) need to turn words into action

The obesity crisis is still here – let’s not let plans to tackle obesity get swept under the carpet

Resilience, resilience, resilience – We need to learn from previous failings and build resilience at all levels. Crucially, this must include building community (food) resilience, hence our work in this area

TODAY IS THE FIRST DAY OF THE REST OF OUR LIVES

Perhaps it’s time to change the countdown clock? There are 3,337 days until 2030, the target date for the Sustainable Development Goals.

But let’s not wait until then to act. Let’s take a leaf out of US Presidents’ book and use our first 100 days wisely. Today is day one – let’s step up, join together and act.

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