Hopes were high that the Government’s Food Strategy would set out a long-term plan for incentivising the food system to shift towards the provision of nourishing, sustainable and affordable food, and away from food which makes us sick.
With the prices of food and fuel surging, this ambition is more urgent than ever, as more and more households who are struggling to pay the bills are put at even greater risk of diet-related disease. Disappointingly, today’s White Paper mostly misses this mark. The need for a political champion to lead this agenda has never been greater.
While we (The Food Foundation) welcome several of the new commitments that have been made, such as to a new horticulture strategy for England, a land use framework, mandatory buying standards for food in all public sector settings, and mandatory business reporting, many of them will flounder without new legislation to make them stick.
The lack of a Food Bill in the White Paper makes today’s strategy a pale imitation of the independent National Food Strategy which was published last year.
Echoes of many of Henry Dimbleby’s good ideas can be seen within today’s recommendations, but without robust regulatory mechanisms to ensure that they can be delivered and enforced the proposals do not have the clout that will be necessary to deliver real impact. And without primary legislation to introduce long-term targets and accountability mechanisms for shifting the food system, we do not believe that today’s strategy is up to the challenge of delivering the consistency of progress that is needed over the long-term.
Anna Taylor, Executive Director of The Food Foundation said: “Today’s White Paper shows that no one in leadership in government appears to have really grasped the scale and urgency of the challenges posed to our health and our planet by the food system.
“What’s more, these challenges are growing exponentially with the cost of living crisis. Despite its name, the whole document is lacking a strategy to transition the food system towards delivering good food which is accessible to everyone. And without a commitment to a new Food Bill, many of the commendable commitments made are in reality toothless.
“It is a feeble interpretation of Henry Dimbleby’s recommendations, which will not be sufficient to drive the long-term change that we know is so urgently needed.”