After years of advocating for food to be on the political plate, many of Sustain’s campaigns finally got their fill in Part Two of the National Food Strategy.
Here’s our list of the top eight proposals included in the National Food Strategy that align with causes we've championed over the years.
- Sugar and salt reformulation tax: Our Children’s Food Campaign first called for a sugar tax in 2012, with campaigning leading to the introduction of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy in 2018. It has since delivered an annual reduction of 44 million kilograms of sugar in people’s diets as manufacturers reformulated recipes, and in 2019/20 alone it raised £336 million, much of which was channelled to children’s health activities (more on that here). We are thrilled to see the Strategy drive this agenda further with a proposed tax on salt and sugar for a much wider range of processed food and drinks. It is encouraging to see ambitious proposals such as this put to Government, and we hope that the potential to raise £3bn to help reduce diet inequality is something they will seize on in their forthcoming White Paper.
- Farming and trade: The recommendations to guarantee agricultural payments to 2029, create a rural land use framework, and implement an innovation fund all align with our core asks for support to help farmers transition to agroecology and more sustainable land use. Sustain has been a leading champion of agroecology in the UK, so we are pleased the strategy has incorporated it into its vision of a future food system. Moreover, the call for food standards to be protected in any new trade deals is vital and echoes our recent campaigns to ensure high-standard food remains the norm after Brexit.
- Children’s access to food: The Strategy recommends that the Government extend free school meals to all children in households currently earning less than £20,000, as well as to undocumented children and those from households with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF), to whom the Government extended free school meals during the pandemic. It also recommends funding the Holiday Activities and Food Programme for the next three years, all contributing to better and healthier food environments for all children. If accepted by Government, it would be one step further towards the vision of Sustain’s Food Poverty campaign, which has called for a 365 day a year approach to ensuring all children’s right to healthy food.
- Healthy Start: This scheme to help low-income families access healthy food is notoriously overlooked and under-resourced, but thankfully the Strategy has given it a significant boost by including recommendations to properly resource, promote and expand it. As we’ve campaigned for in the past, they propose expanding eligibility to a higher income threshold which is in line with free school meals and extending it until school age, as well as investing in communications to increase take up and improve awareness among GPs, health visitors, midwives and other relevant workers.
- Procurement: Public sector food has the potential to deliver a number of government priorities, including making us healthier, benefitting our farmers and leading a transition to climate friendly diets. After years of advocating for improved Government Buying Standards, the Strategy’s proposals to not only strengthen them but also include better monitoring and reporting, were met with cheers at Sustain. Their calls for the government to roll-out the dynamic procurement model to provide opportunities for great small-scale producers to sell to the public sector was the icing on our campaign’s cake.
- More fruit and veg: Many of the Strategy’s recommendations emphasise the need to eat more vegetables and fruit, as well as improve access to them for those most in need. This includes a proposal to double the budget of the School Fruit and Veg Scheme and to introduce a ‘Community Eatwell’ programme for GPs to prescribe fruit and vegetables to people facing food insecurity or diet-related ill health. Our Veg Cities campaign has tirelessly campaigned to save the School Fruit and Veg Scheme from the axe as recently as last month, and we’re pleased to say the government has now confirmed its continuation in September 2021. Fruit and veg on prescription has also been a part of our campaigns’ calls to expand Healthy Start beyond children.
- And better meat: The Strategy calls for a 30% increase in fruit and veg in our diets and a 30% reduction in meat consumption by 2032. With the global food system producing a third of greenhouse gas emissions, Sustain has been doggedly reminding policy makers of the potential for food to play a key part in halting the climate and nature emergency. We now hope to see how businesses will be incentivised to achieve this, with targets set to make sure more veg and better meat and dairy options are available and affordable.
- Food Partnerships: With the success of our local food partnership networks, such as Sustainable Food Places and Food Power, it was promising to see the Strategy emphasise the need for a Good Food Bill, which would include Local Authorities developing a food strategy in partnership with their communities. Local areas can be ambitious leaders in using food to address the most pressing challenges of our time including the climate emergency, food poverty and the escalating public health crisis, so it has never been a more pressing time to empower their effectiveness as changemakers.
We are encouraged the National Food Strategy has set forth a clear set of progressive recommendations, many of which align with years of our campaigning at Sustain. We will now be working with our alliance members, other NGOs and interested parties to ensure that the National Food Strategy's recommendations are included by the Government in their forthcoming White Paper and turned into lasting legislation.
For more information about the National Food Strategy and Sustain’s related policy positions, please visit our NFS hub page.
Published 28 Jul 2021
Sustain: Sustain The alliance for better food and farming advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, enrich society and culture and promote equity.
Maddie leads on Sustain's communications strategy and social media, as well as supporting campaigns and promoting the work of alliance members. She also manages Roots to Work, a platform for job opportunities in the field of good food.
Communications and Learning Coordinator (maternity cover)
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