Author: Tom Tanner
Given that one in eight people in the UK earn a living from it, we all eat it every day, it helps define who we are as individuals as well as a nation and is our primary social act – it’s pretty hard to understand why we’ve not had a national food strategy since World War II. So, you can imagine that there was a fevered sense of anticipation among the audience at City University this week, gathered to hear, among many other illustrious speakers, Henry Dimbleby. The co-founder of Leon and the Sustainable Restaurant Association is the man hired by Environment Secretary Michael Gove to deliver this Herculean task. Apart from those aforementioned achievements, Henry does have form delivering on food for the government – most notably with his roundly lauded School Food Plan, launched in 2013. So how is the creator of the Superfood Salad and architect of free school meals for early years going to crack this massive nut?
Here’s a flavour of Henry’s plan…
The purpose of the plan is to ensure all the work already underway like the Agriculture, Environment and Fisheries Bills as well as the National Obesity Plan, are joined up and together they deliver safe, healthy and affordable food for all, while fostering sustainable agriculture and a sustainable living for those working in it. So far, so not very controversial.
One of the really refreshing parts of this early stage plan is that Henry says it is properly resourced (or at least will be once the army of civil servants who’ve been planning for a no-deal Brexit are put back onto day duties) and it’s to be founded on democracy. That means it will not be a diktat from the ivory towers of Westminster. Once terms of reference have been defined in the coming weeks there will be a call for evidence, followed by an initial demonstration of what the food system could look like which would be followed by further public input. “Collaborative” and “consensus” were two significant words noted by your correspondent.
“The good news is that we are working on national strategy, we have someone with a proven track record in this space at the helm, and, at this early stage he’s making all the right noises. “
That doesn’t mean that Henry will shy away from difficult decisions. He wants the strategy to “reach the parts other strategies have failed to reach”. He is also fully aware that given the fact that the we’re faced with a situation that means it’s no longer good enough to tinker round the edges, some of the solutions will have to be both radical and uncomfortable. Are we prepared to give stuff up, he asked?
The good news is that we are working on national strategy, we have someone with a proven track record in this space at the helm, and, at this early stage he’s making all the right noises. Over the coming months he’ll want to hear from anyone who has solutions to the big challenges facing our food system. This is a once in a generation opportunity – do join us in supporting this process in any way you can. We all have a part to play in creating a better food future.