The National Food Strategy is the first independent review of England’s entire food system for 75 years.
It aims to ensure that our food system:
- Delivers safe, healthy, affordable food, regardless of where people live or how much they earn;
- Is robust in the face of future shocks;
- Restores and enhances the natural environment for the next generation in this country;
- Is built upon a resilient, sustainable and humane agriculture sector; and
- Is a thriving contributor to our urban and rural economies, delivering well paid jobs and supporting innovative producers and manufacturers across the country;
- Delivers all this in an efficient and cost-effective way.
Early in 2020 we will publish a rigorous, evidence-based analysis of the current food system. This will include examinations of the various existing outcomes – good and bad – and the power structures and economics that deliver them.
We will then look at what needs to be done to get us from A to B: to transform the food system we have today into something better for the future. Many of these decisions cannot be mathematically or economically calculated. They will require careful balancing of the evidence, along with moral and aesthetic judgements. For example, what do we want our countryside to look like? How far do we want the state to go in protecting us from our own “bad diets”?
These are things that the National Food Strategy team cannot decide, nor should the government decree. So, we will be creating Citizens’ Assemblies to debate the possible futures and actions that could be taken to get there.
We will publish our strategy in the summer of 2020. The government has committed to responding with a white paper six months after publication. It has also asked Henry Dimbleby to review progress 12 months after that.
These are the principles that will guide all our work.
Collaborative and Open
We will engage those involved in all parts of the food chain, from across the political spectrum and from all parts of the country.
We will seek to put those most affected by the issues we are tackling at the centre of the process. We want to talk to people who are not normally involved in policy making, so that the strategy is shaped by a wide range of views and experiences.
We will talk to people from all walks of life with an interest in the future of our food system, including chefs and shop-keepers, abattoir workers, school cooks, fisherman, lorry drivers, supermarket managers, pre-school carers, teachers, care-home workers, scientists, academics, hospital canteen staff, refuse collection workers, and children, parents, teenagers, and grandparents.
As our team get out and about around the country, we will publish on our website all the meetings we have held and the books and papers we have read.
Our recommendations will be built on the strongest existing evidence. We will challenge ourselves and our prejudices, the prejudices of others and the prevailing orthodoxies.
Addressing the whole system
To tackle the issues we face, we need to understand not just the supply chain (the linear movement of food from farmer, through processor, to retailer and consumer), but the wider network of our interconnected food system, and the outcomes it produces for our environment, our health and well-being, our jobs and livelihoods, and our families. We will be looking at the role to be played by all actors: citizens, businesses, non-governmental organisations, and government.
We have to be on the lookout for actions that could create benefits in multiple areas while considering how well-intentioned changes in one area might lead to unintended and undesirable consequences in another. It is unlikely that all actions will be “win-win”. We will need to identify trade-offs and address them explicitly.
We live in a fast-changing world. Global factors such as climate change, geo-politics, population growth, and technology will all influence how we adapt and secure our food systems for the future. No one knows how these interconnected influences will play out. A National Food Strategy needs to be responsive to different possible futures and not rigidly beholden to one set of assumptions.