20 October 2021
Country Trust welcomes the National Food Strategy’s ‘Eat and Learn’ policy recommendations. For people and agriculture to thrive we must all be informed participants rather than mere consumers for whom food production is an abstract idea. That is why ‘Eat and Learn’ must be linked to ‘Make best use of our land’ policies, to achieve the ‘long term shift in food culture’ so urgently needed. The National Food Strategy Children’s consultation found:
Among the 426 young people we spoke to, some had a good understanding of the environmental impact of our food system. For the most part, however, there was a clear lack of knowledge as to how food and the environment were linked.
Farmers and growers, especially those within reach of areas of multiple deprivation, must be supported and incentivised to provide high quality educational access. Only by doing so, can we achieve a shift in food culture. Services of charities such as The Country Trust who empower children to be curious, confident, and connected through food, farming and countryside experiences, are in great demand because these opportunities offer the right balance of emotional, physical, social, and educational development that teachers in disadvantaged areas are in desperate need of for their pupils. Over recent years, and since the changes in educational access payments, the supply of farmer hosts has been dwindling just as the demand is growing. For a modest spend there is potential to make an enormous difference.
If the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda is to happen, it needs input from all departments, including Defra. Government must take an innovative approach, join up across departments and work together creatively to empower farmers, food producers, and citizens to create a sustainable, resilient food system that supports people to live healthy lives. In doing so we must also start to address an epidemic of eco anxiety recently highlighted in a global report led by Bath University.
The National Food Strategy recommends ‘Eat and Learn’ should be funded and implemented by a dedicated team in DfE, however we believe the implementation of ‘Eat and Learn’ will only be successful if it takes a ‘whole system approach’. ‘Eat and Learn’ must be supported by multiple government departments, including Defra, Department for Health, Department for Levelling up, Housing and Communities etc.
We therefore urge government to make funding available for ‘Eat and Learn’ in all 3 levels of Defra’s new Environmental Land Management scheme as well as supporting vital initiatives such as Nature Premium and Social Prescribingto ensure everyone has the chance to discover the connections between the food they eat, their own health and the health of the planet.