The National Food Strategy is an independent review led by Henry Dimbleby on appointment by the Government to identify the weaknesses within the current UK food system and come up with recommendations where imminent improvement needs to be made. The report was delivered in two parts, Part One was released last summer and focused on urgent and immediate response needed during the Covid-19 pandemic. The UK Government listened and adopted 4 out of 7 of Dimbleby’s recommendations.
Part two of the report, concluding the review, was released today. Anyone working in public health and/or sustainability would have been waiting for the report to drop and have since been thumbing through it and trying to understand what it all means. As with any ambitious and bold strategy to try and tackle the age-old question of how do we fix our current food system, and make people eat healthier, we also know the media will weigh in heavily as will all the critics. This is evident in some of the headlines seen today, but here is my take on it all.
The report outlines rather eloquently 14 well presented recommendations, based on evidence-based science, consultations with industry experts and policy makers. Let’s just say Dimbleby really did his homework on this one, they all did. For me, the report underpins a few things – the onus needs to shift from the consumer, and to bring more accountability to industry and government. Policy needs to push for more bolder reforms to shift the current food environment which we operate in. Stats like “in 1980, on average, 57% of a household’s grocery budget was spent on ingredients for home-cooked food. By 2000, this had fallen to 35%, while the share of processed foods which required little preparation rose from 26% to 45%” (The National Food Strategy) this demonstrates so clearly the progressive shift we have been undergoing. These steady and incremental changes to how we view our current food system, have over time made us numb to the place we ultimately have arrived at today. Now add in some sustainability, tax and agricultural reforms to complicate the messaging.
I do feel very passionately that this report highlights the broken parts of the UK food system, it helps the most vulnerable by identifying their challenges as well as pushes the responsibility of business to rethink their profit over purpose and most importantly it identifies the urgency needed in sustainable food practices within the food system. When reading the critique of this report it just tells me we are stuck in a cycle, the same arguments of taxing will only implicate the more vulnerable etc. How about we take heed, pause, reflect and commend this monumental piece of work. There is so much good in here, focus on that and try to find workable solutions for the more conflicting issues. A broken food system, especially after a pandemic as Covid-19, requires attention, all of our attention.