It’s been dubbed ‘London’s great unpopularity contest’ by certain commentators, but there’s no denying that, on the food front at least, this election could be good news. Four of London’s Mayoral candidates have pledged in their manifestos to improve London’s food – the first time healthy and sustainable food has featured on the political agenda of all of the main contenders for London’s leadership.
Measures promised by Boris Johnson (Conservative), Jenny Jones (Green), Ken Livingstone (Labour) and Brian Paddick (Lib Dem) include promoting community food growing and green spaces, improving the food served in public sector institutions such as schools and hospitals, and reducing food waste.
For Boris Johnson the focus has been on food-growing, and specifically the Capital Growth Campaign. He pledges that ‘By 2012, I aim to have turned an extra 2,012 pieces of land into thriving green spaces, allowing Londoners the chance to grow their own food’.
In November 2011, London Food Link challenged London’s Mayoral candidates to support effective measures to improve the healthiness and sustainability of the capital’s food system. Each received a report produced by London Food Link on how good food can help these candidates achieve many of their aims. The report, Menu for Change, setting out priorities for improving the Capital’s food system, is available for download here
Ken Livingstone also emphasises support for urban agriculture in the capital, in a promise to ‘Re-energise London’s Food Board’ - an advisory group of independent food policy organisations and experts which oversees the implementation of The Mayor’s Food Strategy: Healthy and Sustainable Food for London, published in 2006. He specifically talks about supporting the Healthy Schools programmes, local food-growing projects, the successful ‘Good Food on the Public Plate’ programme and expanding efforts to change our fast food culture’. He also plans to ‘Launch a new programme working with corner shops and local food retailers to get more fresh fruit and vegetables onto Londoners plates, at the same time as challenging fast food outlets to cook healthier food’.
Unsurprisingly, Green candidate Jenny Jones gives the most attention to food matters in her manifesto. She promises, for example, to ‘Encourage a reduction in consumption of meat and dairy produce in catering procurement decisions’ adding that ‘Use of organic, higher welfare products would be strongly encouraged when meat, milk or eggs are used’. She pledges to ‘Promote the Meat Free Monday campaign both within City Hall and throughout London to encourage the reduction of meat consumption’ to ‘Produce comprehensive information on vegetarian and vegan diets for all boroughs and authorities so that all London's schools, hospitals and prisons offer healthy vegetarian and vegan options. ‘Promote a cruelty-free economy and cruelty-free practices - and advocate that especially cruel foods such as pâté de fois gras, shark's fin soup and frog's legs are banned’.
Her manifesto also tackles local food. She says she will work ‘with boroughs and trade bodies to encourage Londoners to buy local and commission research into buy-local schemes, and lobby the Government to give local authorities much stronger powers to prevent chain stores taking over independent shops, and to control the saturation of certain business types such as takeaways, betting shops and payday loan companies’.
Brian Paddick’s pledges also refer to local food. Along with supporting ‘the move to Fair Trade across London’, and working to ‘expand the Fresh Carts scheme to 500 locations across London – bringing high quality, locally grown produce at street market prices and creating work for young jobless people wanting to create a business’, he also pledges to promote ‘more food growing in and around London to reduce ‘food miles’ and increase London’s resilience’. His manifesto also makes specific reference to waste, with a promise to introduce both ’food waste collections in every borough as a step towards a comprehensive system of separate wet and dry collections’ and ‘ a plastic bag levy, as Wales and soon Northern Ireland have done, by agreement if possible, by securing legislation if not’.
Ben Reynolds, Director of the London Food Link network (and Editor of the Jellied Eel), which works for healthy and sustainable food in the capital, is positive about food’s rising importance in the city. “We welcome the recognition by London’s top mayoral candidates that food is essential to the health, wellbeing and enjoyment of Londoners and the security of the farmers, fishers and environment on which we all depend. Both Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson have already demonstrated, as London Mayors, that good food is what makes London great, and that political leadership is vital to achieve this.”
Kath Dalmeny, member of the London Food Board and Policy Director of Sustain, an alliance of food and farming organisations, echoes this view. “Under Ken Livingstone’s and Boris Johnson’s two administrations, and with the support of Mayoral candidate Jenny Jones, millions of pounds of public spending on food in schools and other public institutions has shifted to more ethical options. This has also encouraged the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to adopt a healthy and sustainable food policy for its catering. Funding from the Greater London Authority, supported by the London Food Board, for Capital Growth has helped to create over 1,700 new community food growing spaces, benefiting tens of thousands of Londoners. It’s very encouraging to see the main Mayoral candidates recognising how important good food is for our city.”
Read all about it - the manifestos:
Boris Johnson (www.backboris2012.com/manifesto)
Ken Livingstone (www.kenlivingstone.com/uploads/fb361fbe-23d1-34a4-1124-92aba8618be5.pdf)
Jenny Jones (www.jennyforlondon.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Green-Party-2012-London-Manifesto.pdf
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