The Sustain Annual Conference took place 8 December 2022, bringing together over 350 attendees from across the Sustain alliance and beyond. There was widespread consensus on the need for Government intervention to fix the problems in our food system, including to tackle obesity, ensure children have access to a school meal, as well as tackling unfairness in the food supply chain.
Watch back and read our summary of key quotes from parliamentarians who presented on the day.
Chair's introduction: 00:00-11:40
- Kath Dalmeny, Chief Executive, Sustain
In conversation with... 11:40-40:38
- Professor Ha-Joon Chang, economist and author of 'Edible Economics: A Hungry Economist Explains the World' - buy here.
- Ben Reynolds, Deputy Chief Executive, Sustain
Panel: What's been won and lost in the last year? 40:38-1:20:00
- (Chair) Orla Delargy, Head of Public Affairs Sustain
- Shaun Spiers, Executive Director, Green Alliance
- Sabine Goodwin, Director, Independent Food Aid Network
- Kat Jenner, Director, Obesity Health Alliance
Panel: How to respond to the current crisis? 1:28:40- 2:15:38
Free School Meals
- Liv Eren, anti-poverty & social mobility campaigner
- Barbara Crowther, Co-ordinator Children's Food Campaign
Local response to the current crisis
- Oluseyi Obadare, Public Health Project Manager, Medway Council
- Sofia Parente, Sustainable Food Places Coordinator
Supporting consumers through the cost-of-living crisis
- Shefalee Loth, Senior Researcher and Writer - Nutrition and Food, Which?
Fairness in the food supply chain
- Vicki Hird, Head of Sustainable Farming, Sustain
Good Food Nation Bill and Healthy Basket Guarantee
- Pete Ritchie, Director, Nourish Scotland
Parliamentary Panel: What do we need from policy makers? 2:15:38- 2:58:20
- Sheila Dillon, food journalist and presenter of BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme
- Daniel Zeichner, Labour MP for Cambridge and Shadow Minister for Food and Farming
- Jo Gideon, Conservative MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central and former Chair of the APPG on the National Food Strategy
- Munira Wilson, Lib Dem MP for Twickenham and Lib Dem spokesperson for Education
Parliamentary panel summary and key quotes
On need for cross party consensus
Jo Gideon, former Chair of the APPG on the National Food Strategy, highlighted her support for Henry Dimbleby’s NFS recommendations and called for cross party unity on food system issues:
“It shouldn't be about naming and shaming people who vote this way or the other, it actually should be about all coming together and supporting and encouraging government to do the right thing that we all know will benefit children, will benefit farmers and will benefit the environment” Jo Gideon MP, Conservatives
On school food
With Scotland and Wales rolling out Universal School Meals, England is at risk of falling behind. There was consensus that access to a healthy and high-quality meal is of the utmost importance to a child’s education.
“a child who's hungry can't learn properly” states Jo Gideon, MP for Stoke-on-Trent who also linked school food to the leveling up agenda:
“You can't level up a child's educational attainment if they go to school hungry” Jo Gideon MP, Conservatives
The Liberal Democrats introduced Universal Infant School Meals when in the coalition government from 2010-2015. When asked about the next steps for the school meals agenda, Munira said:
“at the very least we should be looking to expand Free school eligibility to every family that's on Universal Credit, whether it's a primary child or a secondary child…I think there is a both a moral and an economic and educational case to be expanding free school meal eligibility- we know that hungry children can't learn it impacts their physical health and their mental health... even if it's on a temporary basis I think we should expand universal free school meals to or primary children just so that we can ensure that every child is getting at least one hot meal a day" Munira Wilson MP, Lib Dems
At the Labour Party Conference in September, Labour announced their commitment to providing school breakfasts for all children if they were to get into power. Labour are yet to announce a policy on free school meals provision, but Daniel Zeichner said:
“I can tell you my view as a shadow food minister is I absolutely agree with what Munira and Jo have been saying I think the evidence is pretty clear of the benefits both educationally in health terms and overall in economic terms.” Daniel Zeichner MP
On tackling obesity
Last week the Government announced a delay on an online ban on junk food advertising and 9pm watershed for TV advertising of unhealthy food for almost three more years. This completely against the Government commitment to halving childhood obesity by 2030.
Write to your MP now to stop the #AttackonHealth and read more info on the delay here.
At our conference, Lib Dem MP Munira Wilson said:
“when you look at the strain that are NHS is under from long term chronic conditions such as obesity and diabetes, I think it's incumbent upon government should be doing more… we certainly do support restricting the marketing of junk food and closing some of the loopholes in the soft drinks industry levy I think there is more of a rolling for government to play”. Munira Wilson MP, Lib Dems
Labour’s food and farming shadow Minister said:
“Many people in the food industry themselves recognize that the junk food cycle to be a real problem, but none of them can deal with it on their own, only government can intervene to make it possible for them to make the changes they want to make”. Daniel Zeichner MP, Labour
Conservative MP Jo Gideon asserted her support in looking more broadly at the differences in costs between healthy options and less healthy options- highlighting that unhealthy food is often cheaper than healthy food. Ms Gideon also pointed to the success of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy at reformulating unhealthy sugary drinks products.
On supply chain fairness
Labour Shadow Farming Minister, Daniel Zeichner, confirmed his support to reform our food supply chain and thanked our Head of Sustainable Farming, Vicki Hird, for her work in this area.
On policy priorities to solve supply chain unfairness, Daniel said:
“The grocery code adjudicator could play a role – through the agriculture act Labour argued it should be strengthened… getting that supply chains transparency and openness is going to be the key”
Munira Wilson and Jo Gideon asserted their party’s support for British farmers and need to ensure that farmers get fair pay for producing food.
Our recent report on supply chain unfairness can be seen here.
Published 8 Dec 2022
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.