Fancy shaping the future of England’s food?

July 5, 2019 6:15 am Published by Leave your thoughts

What does the future of England's food look like?

From field to fork: what does the future hold?

Food: it’s a bit of a mess at the moment, right across the country. There are issues with production, diet, sustainability and affordability – and a variety of disjointed efforts aiming somehow to patch it all up. But could that be all about to change? And if it is, could you be a guiding part of that change?

Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of the ‘naturally fast food’ restaurant chain Leon, has been appointed to lead a government review into England’s food system ‘from field to fork’. No kale leaf will be left unturned. No vegan sausage roll will escape his attention. Henry Dimbleby is looking to transform the food situation in this country so that it’s “safe, healthy and affordable”  for all. It will be the first such review for almost 75 years. (And yes, it does just apply to England – environment and food policies and legislation are subject to devolution in the UK.)

Henry’s surname may be a little familiar to you. But if you’re tired of having a succession of Dimblebys both ask and answer the important questions in our land, then why not step up to the mic yourself? As part of the review, a Citizens’ Assembly is to be set up, so that perfectly ordinary people get to have their say too.

“I am very keen to talk to people who have diabetes, those on low incomes, farmers who are not part of the political process,” Dimbleby explained.

Why now?

Climate concerns – population growth projections – escalating dietary health issues: they’re just some of the recent developments affecting food and everyone in this country who eats it. Dimbleby is going to look properly at the amount of meat that’s being consumed in the country, too.

“No part of our economy matters more than food”, he says. “It is vital to life and shapes our sense of identity.”

Any questions? (See what I did there?) Let’s take a quick look at those issues, one by one.

Climate change and food

Climate change is affecting food production across the world. The Dimbleby review aims to look at how we can ‘restore and enhance’ the natural environment in England, building a ‘resilient and sustainable agriculture sector’ and supporting rural economies.

For us at Naturally Good Food, questions of sustainability in agriculture keep on coming back to organic food. Organic food production protects our soils, our essential microsystems, our wildlife and our waterways. Organic farming truly enhances the natural environment and restores the balance with nature. And while farming in England is nowhere near being fully organic, the basic principles of organic farming can’t be left out of any discussion of sustainability.

We’re so keen on organic production at Naturally Good Food, of course, that we put it at the heart of our own business (see here). Find out why in more detail in our blog This is what organic means.

Population growth and food

Populations are predicted to grow rapidly worldwide over the next century, putting additional pressure on food production. This trend was one of the factors, of course, that prompted scientists to come up with a new ‘planetary health diet’ at the start of this year, designed to avert environmental catastrophe, whilst feeding the whole world in a healthy manner.

At Naturally Good Food, we were pleased to see that the diet was much the same as the way we’ve been advocating eating for a number of years, with an emphasis on nuts, fruit, vegetables, pulses and whole grains. However, we voiced our doubts about its chances of being viable worldwide in our blog Save the world: Why the planetary health diet won’t work. It seems very clear to us that a more local approach – a country-by-country approach – will have to go hand-in-hand with global efforts.

Health issues and food

Even if you can’t get worked up about environmental matters, you’re likely to be concerned about your personal health. Here too, food is proving problematic in the UK, with diet-related conditions harming the health of millions of us. A recent study in the medical journal The Lancet showed that what we eat is directly responsible for one in five unnecessary early deaths around the world, with 11 million people dying sooner than they should simply because of what they’re eating.

Our blog Are you eating dangerously? looks at this issue, considering problems relating to the over- or under-consumption of salt, fibre, fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

Naturally Good Food remains a strong advocate for a healthy diet. We’re a business based on wholefoods – those foods that are especially rich in fibre and packed with vitamins and minerals. We’ve examined hundreds of diets over the years – reputable and less so – and we’ve yet to find a respectable recommended diet that we can’t cater for.

Eating less meat

Dimbleby’s chain, Leon, is apparently ‘two-thirds vegetarian’ and Mr Dimbleby notes the growing trend towards eating less meat. Could meat, he wonders, end up almost as a side-dish?

It’s a question to cheer the heart of any vegetarian or vegan out there. Meat-eating has reduced noticeably over recent years (according to a survey by Waitrose, discussed in The Guardian, one-third of us are now either vegetarian/vegan or ‘flexitarian’, eating meat only occasionally). More of us are choosing to get our sources of protein from elsewhere, at least for some of our weekly meals. It’s a trend that’s particularly apparent when eating out: vegetarian and vegan meals are no longer an afterthought on a restaurant, café or pub menu, but an essential and perfectly normal choice for customers.

If you’re eating less meat, however, you need to replace its dietary elements with other foodstuffs. Nuts and seeds are great sources of protein, vitamins and minerals. Vegetarians, vegans and flexitarians are also likely to be interested in our nut and seed butters; our grains, including brown rice and quinoa; our pulses, including peas, beans, chickpeas and lentils; our non-dairy oils, including coconut oil; our non-dairy milks, creams, custards, chocolate and desserts; our vegan cooking ingredients (take a look at the Orgran no-egg egg replacer!), our gelatine-free sweets; and our vegetable-based nutritional supplements.

Don’t mention the B word?

‘Brexit’ was a word conspicuous by its absence in much of the reporting of this initiative. Yet it’s not an unconnected factor – even if it’s just that the review may owe much to Michael Gove’s desire to leave a legacy from his time as Environment Minister.

There’s also concern about food production and trading mechanisms after the UK leaves the EU. Mr Gove’s stated overall aim is to ensure that “everyone has access to high-quality British food”. He notes that Brexit gives us the opportunity to “look afresh” at our food system.

What next?

The recommendations resulting from the review will form part of a new national food strategy, due to be published in 2020. It’s one that we hope will be clear, rigorous and successful. Brexit or no Brexit, a review of how we all eat in this country seems to us to be long overdue. Perhaps some of us can now help to make a change!

Naturally Good Reads v2

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This post was written by Yzanne

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