Published during the summer, the National Food Strategy is the first comprehensive review of the food system in 75 years. It was led and authored by Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of both Leon Restaurants and of the Sustainable Restaurant Association. Five years ago Dimbleby wrote the School Strategy and has a track record when it comes to successful government adoption of strategic recommendations.
Already, the Government have committed to releasing a white paper to take forward or reject the suggestions made by the National Food Strategy. This is due to be released around Christmas 2021 (although there is a possibility of delay due to the current food supply chain challenges) and is led by Defra.
What are the key themes?
In short, the National Food Strategy equally addresses issues of diet and sustainability, so relevant to schools and themes that will already be high on many of your agendas. Sustainability and health challenges mesh many very complex issues and interdependencies that all need to be understood in order to find credible solutions.
The challenge of limiting climate change, how to feed a growing global population, biodiversity collapse, water scarcity, pollution, caring for our oceans, poor diets and calorie inequality all require radical system change. This is not just on a national level, but on a global scale. Little changes can have big impacts and there are things we can all be doing, already.
However, the immediacy and complexity of the challenge requires individuals, organisations and governments to act quickly and decisively. The National Food Strategy is built around addressing the sustainability challenges that we are all aware of within UK food production, whilst addressing poor diet related health issues and animal welfare.
What may this mean for catering and foodservice operations?
There are several practical actions from this that could impact school catering and foodservice, dependent on the Government’s take on the report’s findings and recommendations:
- The concept of a meat allowance per week.
- Allocated meat free days becoming the norm (many are already doing this anyway, with ‘Meat Free Mondays’ increasingly popular).
- A ban on certain meat – taxation on factory farmed meat (a price-based mechanism).
- One vegan or vegetarian option to become a mandatory requirement of menu design.
- A minimum of two portions of vegetables per meal, mandated. With fruit for pudding. This is circa in line with existing school standards but may be widened into other sectors too.
- Perception – regarding both taste and also nomenclatures – is important. Consider calling things on your school menu ‘vegetable’ (or more specific still, regarding the type of vegetable) rather than ‘vegetarian’.
Please do speak to the team at allmanhall if you would be keen to arrange samples to help support guiding taste perceptions amongst your end consumers.
What would be the major changes we would introduce if advising the UK Government?
Not necessarily a change as such but we would vehemently encourage the Government to act decisively and quickly. In the words of allmanhall’s procurement director, Mike Meek: “We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Commissioning independent reviews is the easy part. Complexity leading to hesitancy, and ultimately inactivity, could be the worst outcome.”
If implemented, the recommendations from the National Food Strategy would provide clear actions to help transform the broad but intrinsically linked challenges that are currently faced. The results of the white paper led by Defra, towards the end of the year or early 2022, are therefore eagerly awaited.
Will this support transformation or be another report read and debated then filed, like some of those that have gone before? And will this agenda become hidden and side-lined as a result of urgent and pertinent supply chain challenges? Or do those challenges serve to magnify the importance of these issues? Only time will tell.
To read the National Food Strategy report in full, visit www.nationalfoodstrategy.org
To understand how allmanhall can partner your catering team to support food supply chain management as an essential service in these challenging times, visit www.allmanhall.co.uk