'No part of our economy matters more than food. It is vital for life, and for pleasure. It shapes our sense of family, community and nation: cooking and eating together is perhaps the defining communal act. The food system also provides jobs for one in seven of us.'
Henry Dimbleby was appointed by the Environment Secretary to conduct the National Food Strategy, a year-long review, the first independent review of England’s entire food system for 75 years.
It aims were to ensure that our food system:
The Country Trust took part in the consultation focusing particularly on the first aim - read our submission here - and welcomes part one of the report published in July 2020, particularly this recommendation:
'Eating well in childhood is the very foundation stone of equality of opportunity. It is essential for both physical and mental growth. A poorly nourished child will struggle to concentrate at school. An obese child is extremely likely to become an obese adult, with the lifetime of health problems that entails. It is a peculiarity of the modern food system that the poorest sectors of society are more likely to suffer from both hunger and obesity. In the post-lockdown recession, many more families will struggle to feed themselves adequately. A Government that is serious about “levelling up” must ensure that all children get the nutrition they need.'
'The Government must move quickly to shore up the diets of the most deprived children using existing, proven mechanisms.'
The report recommends that the way to do this is to
'Expand eligibility for the Free School Meal scheme to include every child (up to the age of 16) from a household where the parent or guardian is in receipt of Universal Credit (or equivalent benefits). It should be a priority to ensure that all children can access at least one healthy cooked meal per day through extending the provision of Free School Meals.'
We use FSM as one indicator of the schools that need our help and have been aware that the statistics didn't tell the whole story. We would welcome the opportunity this extension would give us to bring opportunities and experiences of food, farming and the countryside to more children experiencing disadvantage.
We found the evidence from Daisy Stemple - a member of the Advisory Panel - explaining the multiple pressures that shape the food choices of people living in poverty particularly thought provoking and will be reflecting on how we might use her evidence to inform our Food Discovery programme.
The section of the report that recommends that our farming practices should be both practically and ideologically diverse is helpful as we consider how we will structure our new programme of Farm Discovery visits focused on climate change.
We look forward to part two of the report.