Sustainable Food Trust welcomes Defra-Dimbleby partnership

Image: Ryan Song

The Sustainable Food Trust (SFT) has welcomed Defra’s appointment of Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of Leon restaurants, to lead an independent review of England’s food system, examining it ‘from field to fork’.

Dimbleby’s findings will inform the Government’s National Food Strategy; the success of this, says the SFT, will be determined by whether the review recognizes ‘the need to integrate sustainable farming practices with our food system’.

The aim of the National Food Strategy is ensure the nation’s food system provides ‘safe, healthy, affordable food’ through a ‘resilient, sustainable and humane agriculture sector’ without compromising on efficiency or cost effectiveness.

Government is responsible for a myriad of actions which shape the nation’s relationship with food

“No part of our economy matters more than food,” says Defra in a statement online. “Food is vital to life and, for one in eight of us, it is the source of our livelihoods. And no decisions have such a direct impact on our lives and wellbeing as the choices we make about what we eat … But the way we produce, distribute, market and consume food raises a series of difficult policy questions which government cannot shirk. The state already regulates in minute detail how food is grown, and livestock are reared, in order to safeguard both human health and our natural environment. We subsidize food producers to an extent no other industry enjoys. We regulate the sale and marketing of food for health and other reasons. From the national curriculum to hospital meals, the availability of migrant labour to the public health impacts of obesity, government is responsible for a myriad of actions which shape the nation’s relationship with food.

“And the need for government to review and rethink its influence and role is only increasing. It’s not just the case that we need to reconsider how our biggest manufacturing industry, food and drink, fits into the government’s broader Industrial Strategy; there are other urgent and inescapable policy questions with which government must grapple.”

Patrick Holden, CEO of the SFT, comments: “Every citizen has a right to healthy and nutritious food but currently this right is not being realized in the UK. Our current food systems are not transparent. They do not adequately reflect the true cost of food production and diet-related ill health. We would like to see our food system redesigned to ensure everyone has access to healthy food produced in a way that serves the public interest without damaging the natural environment or our health.

Every citizen has a right to healthy and nutritious food but currently this right is not being realized

“Through no fault of their own, food producers have become commodity slaves and as a result are producing food of low nutritional quality. The National Food Strategy offers a unique opportunity to reinstate the cultural and social status of food producers in the UK.  We would like to see a relocalization of the food system where possible, so that agriculture is properly valued, and farmers are able to deliver healthy food for the country.”

Dimbleby, who also founded the Sustainable Restaurant Association in 2009, says he intends to speak with people ‘from across the food chain … and ensure everyone has a say’. “I am very keen to talk to people who have diabetes, those on low incomes, farmers who are not part of the political process,” he explains. “Populations are growing, diet-related conditions are harming the lives of millions, and climate change is altering what our land will yield. But we can change that.”