Our Exec Director’s initial response to the National Food Strategy

Executive Director of the Food Ethics Council, Dan Crossley, gives his initial response to the publication of the National Food Strategy:

“The National Food Strategy feels like a breath of fresh air trying to reinvigorate our food systems at a time when they need an urgent reboot. It powerfully articulates key challenges, gives a carefully considered diagnosis of what’s wrong and lays out some bold recommendations. The headlines of the strategy feel spot on: escape the junk food cycle to protect the NHS, reduce diet-related inequality, make the best use of our land and create a long-term shift in our food culture. The Strategy addresses head-on several difficult but hugely important issues like trade, meat and obesity.

“The headlines of the strategy feel spot on…”

My ask ahead of the launch was of a food strategy that seeks to bring fairness to the fore, with a goal of food systems fair for people, planet and animals. The National Food Strategy delivers on some of that. However, it does fall short on some aspects of fairness, in particular failing to address issues relating to good livelihoods and fair rewards for food and farm workers – albeit some of that is down to the restricted scope of the Strategy.

“It does fall short on some aspects of fairness…”

There will be parts of the Strategy that people agree with and parts people don’t. However, I’d urge everyone to get broadly behind it. If the National Food Strategy were to be accepted in full by UK government, we would see a huge improvement on what we have now. In short, it would go a long way to restoring food-related human and planetary health. We need interventions from government and elsewhere, but we also need to empower and strengthen food communities at a localised level.

The UK government’s white paper response to this National Food Strategy will be a litmus test of how serious the government is about its commitments on net zero and restoring nature, its desire to address root causes of the obesity crisis, its promises to protect and further strengthen UK food standards (e.g. on animal welfare) amidst trade deals, and its support for farmers to deliver public goods and to produce great food.

Food matters. Every bite. Every carrot grown. The welfare of every farm animal. Every gathering to eat food together. Every plate of perfectly good food thrown away. Every investment in good food and farming. In short, every interaction with our food system has the potential to do good or create harm. At the same time, food is a tangible entry point into some of the biggest societal and environmental challenges we face.

As Henry Dimbleby wrote: ‘The food system is about to be asked to perform a feat of acrobatics.’  While there are so many parts of our food systems that need an overhaul, we shouldn’t forget that there are many amazing things happening in food and farming right across the UK. At a time of uncertainty, the sector needs a bold vision, a sense of direction and collective missions that we can all get behind. That’s why the National Food Strategy for England is so important. If food business bosses, NGO and community leaders, chefs, headteachers, farmers and farm workers, local authorities, growers, local food networks, investors, academics and food citizens can unite behind it, then it stands a chance. There’s a temptation to nit pick and cherry pick. Instead, let’s come together to urge the UK government in its White Paper response to implement the Strategy and to fill in gaps in any areas where it doesn’t fully hit the mark.”

“At a time of uncertainty, the sector needs a bold vision, a sense of direction and collective missions that we can all get behind. That’s why the National Food Strategy for England is so important.

The National Food Strategy can be read in full via this website here.

Note – See here for a fuller Food Ethics Council response to the Strategy.