England calls for evidence on national food strategy: ‘We are looking for ideas big and small’

By Flora Southey contact

- Last updated on GMT

©GettyImages/Lisovskaya
©GettyImages/Lisovskaya

Related tags: Defra, Strategic management, England

The UK government has put out a call asking food producers, processors, retailers, academics, factory workers, and ‘simply interested citizens’, among others, to help transform its food system.

“The purpose of this call for evidence is to gather inspiration to help us transform our food system. We want to hear from anyone who has a good idea,” ​noted the government in its consultation brief, launched last Friday (17 August).

Comments and suggestions will help revise England’s National Food Strategy, marking its first major review in 75 years.

“We are looking for ideas big and small,” ​the government continued. “These might be things that are already working well, here or abroad, and that could be scaled up or used differently​. 

Or they might be new ideas: things that haven’t been tried yet at scale, but which you think have the potential to improve the system. We would like to understand the rationale for your proposals and study the accompanying evidence.”

“We are looking for…ideas that help citizens make informed decisions about the food they eat, or which increase access to and affordability of high-quality food; ideas that make food production more environmentally sustainable, creating a flourishing countryside rich in wildlife; ideas that help farming, fishing and food businesses and communities thrive, benefitting employees and the wider community; or that promote the highest standards of animal health and welfare; or that could put England at the forefront of innovation and reshape our food system in the coming years. – UK Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs

The consultation comes two months after the department for environment food & rural affairs (Defra) announced Henry Dimbleby would conduct an independent review to help develop the national strategy. Dimbleby is best known as co-founder of restaurant chain Leon and the Sustainable Restaurant Association.

“We’re launching the call for evidence today to gather insights and inspiration to help transform our food system,"​ said Dimbleby.

“Whether you are someone who works in a food business, a farmer, a food processor, an interested citizen – whoever you are – we want to hear from you. We can’t wait to read your submissions and hear about your ideas.”

Following the closure of the consultation, due 25 October 2019, the final report of the review will be published. This will be made public next summer.

The government has committed to responding with a White Paper six months after the review is published, and has asked Dimbleby to review progress 12 months after that.

The National Food Strategy is intended to be an overarching plan of action for government, designed to insure the 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 human agriculture sector;
  • is a thriving contributor to our urban and rural economies, delivering well paid jobs and supporting innovative producers and manufacturers across the country; and
  • delivers all this is an efficient and cost-effective way.

Environment secretary Theresa Villiers said she welcomed the call for evidence as threats from climate change and biodiversity give rise to new challenges in the food system.

“As we leave the EU and seek to capitalise on the opportunities this can provide for the UK’s farmers and food producers, we have the chance to reshape our food system from farm to fork to ensure it is ready to deal with these 21st century pressures,”​ she said.

“So I am delighted to launch this call for evidence to build on the excellent work Henry Dimbleby has already done on this important review. We should not underplay the importance of the food we eat for our environment, our health and our society, and I encourage people to share their views on the way ahead.”

To contribute to the consultation, email your ideas and suggestions to Sbbqfgengrtlpnyysberivqrapr@qrsen.tbi.hx​ ahead of 25 October 2019.

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