Part 1 of National Food Strategy Summary
Part 1 of a two-part National Food Strategy has been published today which consists of urgent recommendations to support this country through the crises of COVID-19 pandemic and to prepare for the EU exit transition period on 31st December 2020.
To read the full report, click here
Our food system is fragile and has endured many shocks including the Second World War and COVID-19. There have been many losses taking into account the highest death rates, high proportion of furloughed staff and the wave of unemployment all leading to a sharp rise in food insecurity and outright hunger.
The virus has shown the damage that has affected our health by the modern food system. One of the risk factors of mortality from COVID-19 is diet-related illness demonstrating the urgency of the harmful effects of the British diet. Prior to the pandemic, poor diet was responsible for 1 in 7 deaths in the UK (90,000 a year).
This is currently a medical emergency we can no longer ignore.
The recommendations cover two themes:
Make sure a generation of our most disadvantaged children do not get left behind
From COVID-19, there is likely to be a dramatic increase in unemployment and poverty and thus hunger. The effect of hunger is long-lasting and exacerbate social inequalities:
- Expand eligibility for the Free School Meal scheme to include every child (up to the age of 16) from a household where the parent or guardian is in receipt of Universal Credit
- Extend the Holiday Activity and Food Programme to all areas in England
- Increase the value of Healthy Start vouchers to £4.25 per week and expand the scheme to every pregnant women and to all households with children under 4 where a parent or guardian is in receipt of Universal Credit
- Extend the work of the Food to the Vulnerable Ministerial Task Force for a further 12 months up until July 2021
Sovereignty, Standards, Scrutiny - To decide what kind of trading nation we want to be
UK farmers and food producers have one of the highest welfare and environmental standards in the world. However, opening our markets to lower standard imports would undercut our own producers. We are already importing food products from the EU that don’t meet UK standards, however, without requiring a blanket ban there is a subtler mechanism we could use to put in place specific trading standards:
- The Government should only agree to cut tariffs on new trade deals on products which meet our core standards
- The Government should adopt a statutory responsibility to commission and publish an independent report of any proposed trade agreements
- Before any new trade deal is agreed it should be debated in the House of Common
Sheena Bhageerutty, Registered Associate Nutritionist for Action on Salt and Sugar said:
‘Our food from ‘farm to fork’ impacts environmental, health and wellbeing, socio-economic and societal factors. The National Food Strategy has provided recommendations to help build a strong and resilient food system for the next generation at a pivotal time of exiting the EU and living through a pandemic. The spotlight has been placed on poverty and trade to ensure all children have access to healthy and nutritious food they need as well as grasping the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.’