The Mayoral Election: Our good food vision
With the upcoming Mayoral elections 6 May 2021, London Food Link’s Amy Luck outlines the steps the next Mayor should take to ensure all Londoners have access to healthy and sustainable food.
During the last mayoral term - since 2016, big steps have been made to improve the capital’s food system and create new opportunities for change in the food and farming sector. Unhealthy food ads have been banned on the Transport for London network, a climate and nature emergency has been declared and the current Mayor ensured the important first step was taken to measure food insecurity in London, to see how many people in London were struggling to afford food. After all, if you can’t measure it, how can you fix it!
Off the scale
Over the last year we have seen a surge of interest in food among the public and our elected leaders. It seems that what we eat and where it comes from is the issue on everyone’s minds (and lips). Covid-19 has exposed the harsh existing inequalities across our city and highlighted the need for more resilience in London’s food system as well as a plan for recovery.
That’s why London Food Link, part of charity Sustain, and our partners at other Food charities – Feedback, Food Foundation, School Food Matters and the Orchard Project, want to see the next Mayor of London put food policy at the heart of the capital’s Covid recovery plan. This includes seeing food in plans for green jobs, protecting and building public health, tackling the climate and nature emergency and addressing poverty. Good food, as we know, fits with these policies across the board.
Building back better
The current mayor has paved the way by committing to reduce childhood obesity, setting up a new food board and pledging to reduce the amount of meat bought and served in the city. Yet despite this we know that 65% of adults in London eat only three or less portions of the recommended five portions of fruit and veg a day and 50% of children aged 10-11 are overweight. So the next mayor needs to go further and be bolder, by extending the junk food ban to sports stadiums and beyond and investing in good food for all.
And, why stop at just reducing the amount of meat served? We know it’s a big part of climate emissions so let’s take it further and remove factory famed meat and dairy from all Mayor of London premises entirely and commit to halve meat and dairy consumption. The cost savings can subsidise higher-standard certified produce from British farms and sustainable fish, as well as more organic fruit and veg. This better-produce can be sourced from one of the ten new nature-friendly farms we want the mayor to support around the city, increasing tree coverage, biodiversity and providing training and skills to young Londoners. Similarly, for London’s markets and food retailers; it's been a tough year, we would like the Mayor to set up a fund to create thousands of new good food jobs and support social enterprises, markets and traders to sell more fresh, healthy, sustainable food.
Another thing we’ve seen is the power of community over the past year, with hundreds if not thousands of voluntary, community and social enterprise food projects pulling together to provide an invaluable service during the pandemic. But they need support and recognition, including funding for meals on wheels services and other voluntary food services to be able to professionalise and establish sustainable structures. We want all Londoners to have healthy food by living in a healthy food neighbourhood where Londoners young and old can grow their own food in community food gardens and orchards and local buinesses are supported to provide fresh, affordable food. The next Mayor can take great strides to turn the tables on the flow of unhealthy food, and enable the communities leading the charge to help all Londoners buy healthy, affordable and culturally appropriate foods in their neighbourhood shops, eat healthy food in their schools, learn and share cooking skills at their community hub – and maybe even grow some if it at their local community garden. We like the sound of that – do you?
Summary of joint manifesto for healthy and sustainable food
- Ensure all Londoners live in a healthy food neighbourhood
- Support community growing, including in schools and community orchards
- Commit to a London Children’s Right2Food Charter
- Ensure school-aged children having access to universal free school meals
- Champion meals on wheels
- Set up a good food and farming investment fund
- Install water refill points in all TFL stations
- Extend the city’s ground-breaking junk food ad ban to sports and events stadiums
- Champion 10 new nature friendly farms in the urban fringe
- Support small retailers, markets to sell healthy sustainable food