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By Ruth Wade, Research Fellow, University of Leeds

As part of the FixOurFood programme, the University of Leeds is researching the impact of regenerative farming systems in Yorkshire. For many farmers, the main aim of regenerative agriculture is to improve soil quality and fertility, and those who have successfully transitioned report significant changes in soil structure and biology through following six principles: 1. Understand the context of your farm, 2. Minimise soil disturbance, 3. Maximise crop diversity, 4. Keep the soil covered, 5. Maintain living roots all year round, 6. Integrate livestock. Many regenerative farmers report using practices such as cover crops, direct drilling, reducing agrichemicals, and retaining crop residues. There are significant opportunities associated with regenerative agriculture such as reduced inputs, increased business resilience and carbon sequestration, but there are also many challenges and uncertainties especially during the transition phase such as reduced yield, requirement of new skills and initial financial input. We asked farmers how the University can support regenerative farming and they highlighted three key areas

  1. Spreading a positive message about the work farmers are already doing
  2. Provide unbiased evidence-based practice
  3. Support farmer-led knowledge transfer

The regenerative farming system researchers on FixOurFood are implementing activities to support these three areas. One such activity is a large research trial at the University of Leeds farm, in collaboration with NIAB, to support evidence-based practice and knowledge transfer. The trial is designed to test the regenerative farming principles and gain a greater understanding of how to transition from conventional to regenerative management, identifying practices that are likely to have the biggest impacts. It comprises replicated large plots (12 m x 40 m) in a field that has historically been managed conventionally, comparing conventional practice including ploughing, single wheat variety and inorganic fertiliser, with minimal cultivation, inputs of farmyard manure, mixed varieties, clover understories, grazing and changes in the rotation incorporating herbal leys. Those treatments that include applications of farmyard manure have received an application of pig manure supplied by the University of Leeds National Pig Centre.

Throughout the trial researchers at the University of Leeds are measuring the impacts of different practices on soil chemical, physical and biological properties including soil carbon, aggregates, water holding capacity and numbers of earthworms, at detailed temporal and spatial scales (within plots and down to soil depths of 50 cm). Throughout the year, the team are monitoring greenhouse gas emissions using automated flux chambers and have installed soil moisture sensors throughout the trial for real-time high frequency data collection. Crop disease, growth, yield and profit will be evaluated to provide information on the economics of transitioning. All this information and data will be shared with the research collaborators at Cranfield University who will be modelling the impact of changing farm management practices on global warming.

The trial is not only intended to measure the impacts of transitioning to regenerative agriculture, it is also designed as a demonstration trial, where visitors can view and discuss the opportunities and challenges of regenerative farming. We hope that this project is the start of a significant effort to support farmers in the region and the rest of the UK.

By Rebecca Lait, University of York

Utilising public procurement as a way to transform the sustainability of the food system holds great potential, especially when focussing on school meals supplied by local authority catering services. This transformative change can impact young people far into their futures, sparking their interest in this topic and teaching them fundamental and valuable lessons about food, sustainability and health from a young age. To fully harness this opportunity, unpacking and mapping out public food procurement supply chains that lead to school meals was crucial. During this process, I learnt about the factors that shape and influence this part of the food system, as well as how each of the members of the supply chains influence and interact with each other.  I also learnt a lot about the barriers, enablers and contracts that dictate how the system works and how they lead to a deeper understanding that allows for relevant and important solutions to be formed.

When undertaking research in this area, one of my key aims was to not only gain knowledge from existing research and literature, but also to learn first-hand from members of the supply chain and beyond what it is like to procure from and supply to the public sector. This allowed for insight to be gained into not just how the current system works but how well it works, from a range of perspectives. Therefore, I conducted interviews with a range of stakeholders to start understanding the interconnections between each of the members of these supply chains and learn about their current practices and future targets. These stakeholders included:

  • The Department for Education
  • Local Authority Procurement Managers
  • Local Authority Catering Managers
  • School Catering Managers and Chefs
  • Members of the National Farmers Unions
  • Headteachers
  • School Business Managers
  • Members of some Yorkshire Networks such as GROW Yorkshire, Deliciously Yorkshire and ACRE.
  • Regenerative Farmers.

Understanding some of the main barriers and enablers for SMEs supplying to the public sector and for local authorities procuring from SMEs was key. This helped me not only identify and recognise the current difficulties that prevent transformative change, but be able to formulate effective and considered solutions. An example of an enabler for local authorities in procuring from more SMEs is the positive influence and encouragement that organisations like the soil association provide. In contrast to this, one barrier that SMEs can have in supplying to the public sector is the limited time or staff they often have, making it more difficult to complete tender applications at the same level that large-scale organisations with dedicated tendering teams might do. Moreover, with local authorities such as North Yorkshire County Council procuring food for school meals in a way that deals with one supplier per category of food, these contracts can prove to be too demanding for SMEs to fulfil. This can be in terms of both the quantity of food required as well as the range. To address this, a recommendation that emerged from my research was for local authorities to split their tender contracts into smaller lots and to provide support to SMEs when completing tendering applications. However, this itself can prove difficult for some larger local authorities to implement, such as North Yorkshire County Council who are responsible for schools in the whole district of North Yorkshire that are signed up to school catering services. Therefore, identifying additional ways to overcome these barriers was needed. One solution to overcome this barrier that doesn’t seem to significantly increase the workload of local authorities is the introduction and development of dynamic procurement platforms. These platforms provide a place for SMEs and local businesses to supply to, and for local authorities to procure from. Having one platform for multiple suppliers allows their supplies to be aggregated whilst still allowing local authorities to source school meal ingredients from just one place. Dynamic procurement pilots have been carried out in Bath and North East Somerset and produced promising results.

My research identified that fundamentally, local authorities lie at the heart of many public sector food supply chains that lead to schools meals. With local authorities being able to write their own tendering bids and specify terms, whilst also often being responsible for designing school food menus, their decisions impact the sustainability of the whole supply chain. Implementing updated procurement practices and systems not only promotes and supports suppliers that are implementing sustainable practices but this positive impact directly increases school children’s accessibility to healthy, sustainable food.

The timing of my research meant we were ideally placed to contribute to the Government’s Buying Standards consultation. Moreover, other outcomes from this research include the writing of a report as well as the development of a procurement lab event that aims to connect individuals, organisations, schools and local authorities involved in public sector food procurement supply chains that are carrying out innovative, sustainable and successful practices.

Gaining a deeper understanding of public procurement supply chains to increase the sustainability of the food system not only requires learning about what needs to be improved but how that can realistically happen. I think it is promising that a range of solutions to overcome current barriers in the food system have been identified in this work. This does not mean that implementing these transformative changes will be easy, but it does mean that it will be worth it.

Alana holding up a bug and smiling

Dr Alana Kluckzovski from our Hybrid Economies research team has received a York Open Research Award for her contributions to the Take a Bite Out of Climate Change initiative. The scheme provides the ‘opportunity to celebrate projects and advocacy initiatives across a variety of disciplines, recognising work which encourages dialogue, reflection and broader thinking about some of the issues involved in open research and its implementation’.

The Takeabitecc team is an interdisciplinary group of researchers from various Universities around the UK, led by the University of York and aiming to raise awareness about the impact of citizens’ own food choices on climate change and to generate support for changes in all food system activities, the food environment and food policy. Food systems contribute to up to 37% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and emissions are increasing. Since the emissions vary greatly between different foods, citizens’ choices can make a big difference to climate change. Public engagement events are opportunities to communicate these complex issues and so in 2019 Take a Bite Out of Climate Change was launched at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition.

Alana has been instrumental in many of these activities as the Public Engagement Coordinator. She has actively developed the activities and materials as well as adapting them for use in workshops run by herself in India, Brazil and Myanmar. During Lockdown the team developed free online resources for school children aged 7–14 years. As a result of this, Alana was awarded a grant from UKRI NERC – Cardiff University to run the project ‘Lowering Impacts on the Climate by Engaging with Wales Local Residents’. This involved outreach activities, adaption of materials and developing interventions in schools in North Wales.  She also coordinated the development of the Pre-COP26 School Food and Climate Summit for 4 secondary schools across the UK, to increase students’ awareness of food climate impacts, providing them with an opportunity to set ambitious climate reduction targets. Then in November 2021, Alana delivered a face-to-face public engagement event where the Takeabitecc team reunited at the Super Science Saturday delivering activities for families at the Oxford Museum.

The initiative has gone on to reach more than 42000 people, including school students, families, and general public.

We have been lucky to benefit from Alana’s public engagement skills, she has since used her expertise to adapt the materials developed by the Takeabitecc team for activities with our FixOurFood in schools’ team. This is a well-deserved award for her contributions to this fabulous initiative.

Image shows colleagues from FixOurFood at their stand at the Ready Steady Cook event.

As part of the York Environment Week, on Saturday, September 24, Alana Kluczkovski, Alice Thomas
and Ulrike Ehgartner from FixOurFood’s local economies team joined Edible York’s Ready Steady
Cook event. Taking place during Food Circle’s regular Saturday Producer Market at Tang Hall
Community Centre, visitors joined Rachel Denton from the Pie Kitchen during her cooking
demonstration. Adding to Rachel’s delicious butternut squash pasta dish and varieties of apples
freshly collected from York’s orchards available to taste, the FixOurFood team provided visitors with
Grow It York microgreen samples, such as micro kale and sunflower shoots. Visitors were also
encouraged to test their knowledge about various environmental costs of growing different foods
and to build a farm of the future.

light bulbs in hands in a circle to depict sharing knowledge

By Dr Ulrike Ehgartner, FixOurFood Research Associate, University of York

Our food system is in crisis. UK consumers are facing a serious hike in food prices, with 7.3 million adults and over 2.6 million children in the UK experiencing food insecurity. This number indicates a rise of UK household food insecurity by 57%, just from January to April this year, leading to a situation that the Bank of England recently described as “apocalyptic”. Data shows that over the past two years, prices of hundreds of popular items hiked by more than 20 per cent. Also affected are basic staple foods: just over the past year, prices of the UK’s cheapest supermarket rice and bread items have risen by 15%, and for the cheapest pasta by 50%. Also generally, not choosing the cheapest product of a category has become less affordable: in one study, for over two-thirds of the items monitored, the next item was at least 20% more expensive. Given these facts, it comes as no surprise that recent consumer surveys show that 92% of adults state their grocery bill has increased and 39% of adults report they have recently cut back on quantity and quality of the food they consume to be able to afford other essentials.

Policy reforms driven by austerity, which were more recently accelerated by Brexit and the Covid pandemic, have created a highly insecure situation for everyone. How this situation, which has come to be commonly labelled as ‘the cost of living crisis’, will further develop is uncertain with the impact of climate change and the Ukraine war on harvests still unfolding, and the full impact of the inflation yet to be felt. While many industries are affected, our food system is deeply interlinked with many areas, and particularly vulnerable to these uncertainties. Food supply chain and labour shortage issues due to Brexit and the Covid pandemic have caused ongoing challenges. Global fuel and gas shortages come with various direct and knock-on effects on the food industry, for example through increases in fertiliser prices.

Yet, already long before this crisis unfolded, consumer demand for cheap food was identified as the reason for the food industry’s failure to address its severe negative impact on the environment, farmer incomes and animal welfare. Compared to previous decades, we are paying much less for our food and are far removed from the true cost of food. In order to be able to feed ourselves, will we have to abandon plans to decarbonise the industry and exploit farmers, animals and our soils even more? Currently, short-term actions are taken, which indicate this is the only way forward. Decisions of major supermarkets to keep consumers and protect their market share by keeping prices low for consumers, will pass on the rising costs to manufacturers and farmers. Government decisions to delay the introduction of restrictions of multi-buy promotions and advertising of unhealthy food and drink, will not only come with an environmental cost, but will continue putting a strain on our National Health Service.

Over the past decades, we have become accustomed to the notion that such crises can solely be dealt with in ways that either squeeze the consumer or the farmer. However, there are also diverse examples of initiatives, often on a small-scale and local level, which show that another way is possible. Alternative business models such as cooperatives, food hubs, community farms, pantries and other initiatives for affordable food, create more balance in the food supply chain, whilst still making profits. Their models are often based on pursuing sufficient rather than maximised profits and on accepting smaller returns in the short term with the aim to continue and thrive on the long-term. Distributing their food outside the mainstream supply chain, they also introduce means of true cost accounting, which can help reformulate guidelines on an organisational level, inspire investors and set examples for policy makers in applying policy tools such as taxes, mandatory reporting, business investment loans and other incentives to drive improvements in human and planetary health.

Around the globe, partnerships between civil society and stakeholders from public institutions and businesses have trialled and supported the growth and long-term viability of such alternative food systems, enabling new food markets to emerge and food policies to change on a local level. So-called Food (Policy) Councils, or Food Boards, commonly emerge locally, often in cities, and involve various delegates from the different parts of the food system, for example consumers, members of community organisations, representatives of local authorities, farmers and other producers, civil society organisations, activists, retailers and educators. They create active dialogues and collaboration between actors from diverse sectors in order to discuss, coordinate, and influence the transformation towards a more equitable, sustainable and resilient food system and inform and empower citizens to become agents of change. Having emerged in the US in the 1980s, with numbers increasing both in the US and Canada comparatively since, they are a rather recent phenomenon in Europe. First to introduce the concept to Europe was Brighton and Hove in 2003, followed by various cities across Europe, such as Bristol in 2011. As members of Sustainable Food Places, a programme led by three national sustainable food organisations (the Soil Association, Sustain and Food Matters), there are currently 80 Local Food Partnerships in the UK, eight of which are based in Yorkshire, with more to establish in the near future.

The view that the cost of living crisis will inevitably make more and more people dependent on food banks and halt any efforts to decrease the negative environmental impact of food production and the exploitation of farmers, seems inevitable if we deal with issues in siloes. With people operating only within their own institutional boundaries and work areas, it seems as if, for example, climate security and food security are competing goals. Siloed, disjointed policy is increasingly becoming recognised, and was also singled out as a key concern in FixOurFood’s 3 Horizons local economy workshop series with key actors from the food system community in Yorkshire, including representatives of local food partnerships.

Food Policy Councils around the globe have in common that they break siloed thinking and take a systems approach instead, by putting food at the centre, and by supporting the creation of spaces in which alternatives to the mainstream food system work. As such, they provide avenues for transformation towards a food system that allows access to healthy food for everyone, without compromising fairness for farmers, animal welfare or the environment. They can encourage cross-sectoral initiatives and food policy that addresses issues in multidimensional ways and inspire owners of major food businesses to take long-term approaches that prioritise supply chain resilience over short-term returns. An inspiring example that we can learn from is the Cologne Food Council. Founded in 2016 as the first of its kind in Germany, today it coordinates a Network of Food Councils from across Germany and neighbouring countries. Alongside encouraging the establishment of individual Food Councils to impact the food system on the level of their cities or rural places, it also promotes the cooperation between them on a regional and national level. The seeming tension between fair access to food for consumers and fair conditions for farmers and the natural environment constitutes an open topic of discussion within this network, practising food democracy through efforts to bring the question of the true price of food into a citizen assembly context.

It is vital, now more than ever, to foster shared learning across these place-based networks. An approach that focuses on Yorkshire as a region allows to locate local resources and to improve coordination between existing initiatives and programs. The establishment of localised routes to market can enable fairer conditions for regenerative farmers and small-scale producers who operate on sustainable business models. If such routes become more accessible for suppliers and reach consumers of different backgrounds, for example through localised food procurement in schools, the provision of food from such suppliers becomes normalised. This can allow consumers to access healthy and sustainable food, without having to trade off their own livelihoods against those of farmers.

The University of York and Maastricht University launched a partnership in 2017 to establish joint research projects, teaching collaborations, knowledge exchange, student exchanges, and to share best practice among their staff. These research and education programmes were supported by a €3m joint investment to encourage and facilitate innovations to tackle challenges to developing a more sustainable future.

FixOurFood team members Prof Bob Doherty, Dr Ulrike Ehgartner and Prof Peter Ball recently secured an award for €60,000 with colleagues from Maastricht University from the ‘Greener Futures fund’ offered through the partnership.

This collaborative piece of work between the FixOurFood team at York and the School of Business Economics at Maastricht University, will focus on identifying the key success factors in business models that are innovating for net-zero. These will then be developed into a Greener Business toolkit design guide for businesses who want to develop strategies for net-zero and will display options from a product life cycle perspective, from ‘farm to fork’. The team plan to target businesses in UK and Netherlands to rapidly change their business model design with a net zero pathway and then make the validated toolkit available to others.

The team also aims to produce policy briefs for the UK and Netherland governments and envisages cross-regional learning between sustainable entrepreneurial endeavours in the Maastricht and Yorkshire regions, further benefitting the FixOurFood programme.

Here are some examples of sustainable food-related businesses in the Maastricht and Yorkshire regions Mosa meat, Bisschopsmolen, Pieke Broodbier, Looop, Mighty Pea, Food Circle York, Spark York.

By Dr Chris Yap, FixOurFood Research Fellow. City University, London.

This blog was first published by the Food Research Collaboration (

FixOurFood policy researcher, Christopher Yap compared the leaked and the published versions of the Food Strategy White Paper. Here he looks at five key differences and what they tell us about policy-making.

The long-awaited Government Food Strategy White Paper was published on Monday (13 June 2022). But it is not a White Paper. And it is “not a strategy”. Many experts and commentators have been quick to criticise the document for failing to translate into policy the majority of the cohesive, ambitious, and ultimately necessary recommendations set out in Henry Dimbleby’s (2021) Independent Review for the National Food Strategy.

The lack of new, coherent, and progressive proposals is a missed opportunity for the national government to show leadership in addressing a wide range of societal challenges. For policy-watchers, the process by which the document became public sheds interesting light on how public policy is formed – in this case, apparently negotiated sentence by sentence, down to publication.

On Saturday (11 June), the Guardian newspaper leaked a draft of the Strategy (version 19). We will likely never hear the full story of how the published Strategy was produced; how particular decisions were made and words carefully chosen. But comparing the leaked and published versions of the Strategy offers a rare glimpse into the ways that policy documents are produced, with potentially wide-reaching implications.

We compared the documents side by side. They are easily comparable, suggesting that the leaked document was a relatively late draft. However, there are a number of important differences. Beyond the significantly redrafted Foreword, here are five we think are important:

The first is the removal of a sentence that stated the government accepts much of Dimbleby’s analysis and recommendations (paragraph 4):

This Government Food Strategy responds to the findings and recommendations of the independent review; we accept much of the analysis and do not repeat it here. We also accept the majority of recommendations.

This is significant because Dimbleby’s review was based on a thorough and devastating diagnosis of the challenges related to our food system, which justified the scale of interventions he proposed to address them. Without recognising that, “the food we eat – and the way we produce it – is doing terrible damage to our planet and to our health” (Dimbleby, 2021, p10), there is a reduced imperative for significant government intervention.

The second is the downplaying of animal welfare in relation to trade in the stated objectives of the Strategy. In the leaked version, one of three headline objectives was to deliver:

Trade that provides export opportunities and consumer choice through imports, without compromising our standards for animal welfare or doing environmental or social harm.

This was replaced in the published version with the less inspiring objective to deliver:

Trade that provides export opportunities and consumer choice through imports, without compromising our regulatory standards for food, whether produced domestically or imported.

Animal welfare does feature prominently in the published Strategy: section 3.4 remains dedicated to animal welfare standards. However, the language is watered-down and the commitment less clear. For example, animal welfare becomes one of a number of factors that will be taken into consideration, rather than a principle of new Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). The leaked version stated that:

We will seek animal welfare linked liberalisation in our FTAs, allowing us to offer more generous liberalisation for products certified as meeting certain key animal welfare criteria specified in the agreement.

This was replaced in the published version with:

Decisions on the liberalisation of products through FTAs will consider factors such as climate change, animal welfare and the environment alongside the broader economic and strategic benefits of our trading relationships.

The third is the removal of £10 million from the money allocated to UK Research Councils (UKRI) for food systems research. The reduction of investment in research from £130 million to £120 million is not hugely significant in itself. However, this does draw attention to the lack of new investment set out in the strategy, as well as to how far short the published Strategy falls against the £1 billion of investment in innovation needed to transform the food system recommended by Dimbleby, of which £500 million was to be distributed through a UKRI ‘Challenge Fund’ over five years.

The fourth is the addition of an entirely new section on the seafood indsutry as a source of employment (paragraph 1.3.7), focusing on Grimsby and the Humber Region. This is a welcome addition and reflects important work by Sustain and others that has drawn attention to the environmental and economic benefits of regenerating fishing communities in the UK. The question this raises, however, is why the Strategy is so geographically specific and not aimed at current and former fishing communities around the UK coastline?

The fifth is the rewriting of particularly controversial paragraphs on healthy food choices and obesity (2.1.8 and 2.1.9). The differences are subtle, but revealing. The leaked version of the Strategy stated:

Since obesity is a complex cultural challenge, there is a shared responsibility to identify the solution, which lies in making healthier choices easier. There is an important role for individual responsibility and choice which can result in increased demand for healthier foods. Industry also has a role to play, with its responsibility for promoting and supplying healthier foods… There is also a crucial role for government to make targeted regulatory interventions to support change.

While the leaked Strategy emphasised the shared responsibility of individuals, industry, and the government in creating healthy food environments and supporting healthy food choices, the published Strategy subtly shifts the emphasis towards government and industry, not only by changing the order of presentation but by highlighting the importance of “better information” in supporting individual food choices. As the published Strategy states:

There is a shared responsibility to identify the solution to obesity; industry has a role to play through its responsibility for promoting and supplying healthier foods, government has a role in making targeted regulatory interventions to support change, and individual consumers, empowered with better information about healthier choices, can stimulate demand for healthier foods.

Regardless of the emphasis, the argument for shared responsibility is likely to be controversial; there is significant evidence for the role that food environments play in shaping individual food choices as well as the limited role that individual agency plays in addressing obesity.

The rewriting of these paragraphs also draws attention to the recent decisions of the government to delay well-evidenced policies with broad cross-party support that were designed specifically to improve food environments and contribute to public health outcomes. In May 2022, the Department of Health and Social Care announced that the policy to ban ‘buy one get one free’ offers on high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) foods, which was signed into law in December 2021, would be delayed by at least 12 months to give the government time to assess the implications of the policy for the current cost-of-living crisis. The plan to restrict the advertisement of HFSS foods before 21.00 – limiting children’s exposure – has been delayed until at least January 2024.

It is important not to overstate the conclusions that can be drawn from these changes; from the conversations that were had and the decisions made sometime between version 19 (leaked) and the final published versions of the Strategy. Policy-making involves multiple departments and policy documents are routinely revised right up until publication. What this does provide, however, is some indication of the most recent areas of contestation and discussion, as well as a too-rare insight into the policy-making process.

Beyond the specific examples here, and the numerous other changes between the documents (such as the addition in paragraph 1.2.6 to “regulate… where necessary”, and the removal of the suggestion to eat more wild venison from paragraph 1.3.5), the leaked and published strategies are not vastly different. Both fail to live up to the promise of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the food system; both eschew the majority of Dimbleby’s recommendations.

So what now? The published strategy contains some specific signposts to forthcoming White Papers and reports, such as the Health Disparities White Paper and the House of Lords Special Inquiry Committee into land use in England. These take on a renewed significance for their role in addressing the crucial issues omitted from the published National Food Strategy.

This national disappointment also reaffirms the importance and value of local food strategies and leadership from the local level. Local and regional food strategies, policies, and initiatives are now the frontiers for food systems transformation, with an even more significant role to play in transforming the food system to meet social, economic and environmental challenges. Get involved in your local food strategy, because this is now where change must happen.

Professor Bob Doherty, School for Business and Society, University of York. Director of the FixOurFood Programme and the N8 AgriFood Policy Hub.

In July 2021, Henry Dimbleby was commissioned by the UK Government to publish an independent review of England’s food system to produce recommendations for a National Food Strategy. The UK Government, led by Defra, has just published its White Paper response.

Food and drink is the UK’s largest manufacturing sector worth £114b and employs nearly 4 million people with world-class farmers, food businesses and a world leading research base. However, our food system causes terrible damage to both human and planetary health. Our food system is the number one contributor to biodiversity loss, river pollution and deforestation. One in three people over 45 suffer from a dietary related disease and about 6 in 10 UK adults live with overweight or obesity. This costs the UK economy a staggering £74 billion in NHS costs, loss productivity and early retirement. Also, obesity quickly emerged as a leading risk factor for Covid-19 mortality. We have one of the worst diets in Europe dominated by High Fat Sugar Salt foods (HFSS) and do not eat enough fruit and vegetables.

Furthermore, due to the significant reduction in working age social security and the increase in precarious work (zero hour’s contracts etc.) we have a rapidly growing problem in the UK with food insecurity, compounded by the pandemic and the current geopolitical situation. In 2008, the UK only had 60 food banks and now we have over 2,400! In March 2022, 14% of UK families still reported being going hungry, skipping meals etc.

The plans outlined by the UK Government include incentives for industry and investment in research.  One example of how this will be used is to support farmers to harness innovation to boost home-grown fruit and vegetable production. We welcome the £270m investment in horticulture to drive sustainable farming techniques and increase the production of fruit and vegetables. However, there is no point increasing this production without being able to harvest this produce so we welcome an independent review to tackle labour shortages and review the seasonal worker scheme. We also support the plan to consult on an ambition for 50% of public sector expenditure on food procurement to be on food either produced locally or to higher standards. We also welcome the new partnership between the public and private sector to provide consumers with more information about the food they eat. However, this puts responsibility to consumer to make healthy choices, rather than tackling the issue of the huge array of high fat salt and sugar foods. We also fully support the continued funding of the Holiday Activity Food Programme for a further 2-years announced by the Chancellor in the Autumn statement.

However, the Government’s White Paper lacks ambition on improving our diet and food security – failing to listen to Henry Dimbleby’s Independent National Food Strategy. First, on dietary health there is no mention on market interventions to tax those companies producing HFSS foods. This tax on companies was going to be used to fund fruit and vegetable subsidies for those experiencing food insecurity. This is surprising bearing in mind the economic cost to the UK of dietary ill-health. The Government says it’s going to deal with this in the Health Disparities White Paper later in the year but we need urgent action now! Dimbleby’s review also called for action on Free School Meals and there is no action in the Government’s White paper to extend the provision of Free School meals or to review the current combined income eligibility threshold for Free School meals which is a £7,400 per year. Furthermore, there appears to be no mention in the White Paper on protecting UK farmers in international trade agreements on imports from countries with lower food and animal welfare standards. In summary, the UK Government is failing to use the full range of policy tools to both improve the Nation’s Health and tackle household food insecurity in the UK. We call on the Government to implement the recommendations of the National Food Strategy in full!