Westminster Forum looks to next phase of National Food Strategy

CHAP sector lead Dr Reka Haraszi attended a Westminster Food and Nutrition Forum policy conference on 3rd December.

The event, titled Developing a new National Food Strategy (NFS) for England – assessing Part One and priorities for Part Two, included, in Part One, recommendations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and to prepare for UK’s exit from the EU.

Henry Dimbleby, non-exec director at Defra presented an update on Part Two of the National Food Strategy (NFS). Part Two aims to provide a systematic content for the strategy including environmental and climate related challenges and tackling poverty and help with jobs. Next year, a guideline of principles will be published to aid the transformation of the food system into a sustainable one. Among the main principles he discussed were the need to create volume, increase productivity, reduce food waste, use lands intelligently, and to understand what makes a food system both efficient and robust. He stressed the ongoing challenge for a cultural change and projected that within a generation, a sustainable food system would be achievable. The way to achieve this would be through a form of a soilless food production, vertical farming, any kind of technology or genetic engineering or a mixture of these.

Minnette Batters, President of the NFU, represented the voice of the farmers and acknowledged that the driver for transforming the food system should be the NFS. Representatives from two charities, School Food Matters (Founder and CEO Stephanie Slater) and Sustain (Deputy CEO Ben Reynolds) noted that it was not enough just to make food available for those that most need it. They stressed the importance of providing healthy food for children and vulnerable people in society. The NFS plays a crucial role to support these initiatives and the fact that Part Two of the strategy will address poverty and help with jobs was welcomed.

Emily Miles, CEO of the FSA, explained the many challenges associated with importing food, including food quality, and discussed consumer perspectives towards labelling and understanding of how our food is made. She encouraged all stakeholders to aim towards a joint regulatory action.

The need for collaboration and to have a single regulator was further stressed by Ian Wright, CEO of the Food and Drink Federation and Mark Bridgeman President of the Country Land and Business Association. Mark explained what farmers would like the NFS to address and highlighted the challenges of declining biodiversity, lack of profitability, the carbon issue, healthier food and a better connection between farmers and the consumer.


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