Monday, 25 January 2010

Food 2030


I reckon we'll be seeing a lot more of this kind of thing over the coming months/years. Both NAH and I were handed a food container and leaflet like the one pictured at our local supermarket on Saturday. Love Your Leftovers looks to be Sainsbury's rebranding of our government's Love Food Hate Waste campaign, which in turn is set to be a central plank in their Food 2030 strategy, published earlier this month.

There's been quite a lot published concerning this document and supporting website already: you can see some of the very different blogosphere viewpoints and comments on here, here and here. Whilst I welcome the strategy, I'm also rather disappointed, particularly as the use of the word sustainable in what seemed like every sentence got in the way of the message rather. Having spent some time thinking about it further, my main gripe is because it's a strategy. There's lots of fine words, but very little in the way of how we as a country (and I don't just mean the government here) are going solve the food issues we'll have to face over the coming decades. I suspect that's one of the main reasons why others are rather disappointed too.

When I wrote about the Ration Book Britain programme a few days ago, I mentioned we potentially face a similar nightmare scenario concerning food our parents and grandparents faced 70 years ago. Then, rigid measures were introduced by the government: not only rationing (which went on for 14 years), but actions such as wasting food were made illegal. Campaigns like Dig for Victory were introduced, the country's allotments were doubled and a massive education programme swung into action. In the space of 5 years we went from producing just 30% of our own food to around 70% at the end of WWII.

This time, it looks like our government will not be so overtly draconian and parental in the way it acts. Education will be the main persuader in encouraging us to eat healthily and this in turn is expected to lead to consumer-led changes in the food industry as we change our diet and eat more seasonal food. Food production will be increased sustainably, the food industry's greenhouse gas emissions will fall, waste will be reduced and all this will be underpinned by top-notch science, research and development enabling us to do all of this in practical and innovative ways.

It all sounds wonderful, but the cynic in me isn't so reassured. My head's warning bells sounded whilst reading the Food 2030 report itself. Apparently 90% of people claim that healthy eating is important to them. Therefore it appears the messages from campaigns like 5-a-day are already getting through to the majority of us. However, we don't seem to be translating that into our dietary choices yet: we are still eating too much salt, fat and sugar and not enough fruit and vegetables. So where does that fit with a consumer-led food revolution?

Growing our own also features in the report as key to future success and there's already lots of independent initiatives around encouraging us to do more of this: Dig In from the BBC, Landshare and the RHS' Grow Your Own to name but three. All are very worthwhile, but sometimes I wonder whether a centralised, co-ordinated approach like that embodied in Dig for Victory might be more effective? I'm also concerned too much focus may be on the consumer and self-production end of things rather than what the farming industry could be doing.

Whilst I love having my allotment (and I feel very privileged to have one) and community projects such as Incredible Edible Todmorden are absolutely fantastic, but the bottom line is this: the land available for growing our own will probably diminish, not increase like it did during WWII because of the projected increase in our population taking up more land. Our farmers will need to produce more food, also on much less land than now (never mind what was available in the 1940s) and with less artificial fertilisers and water. I haven't seen anything in Food 2030 which really addresses this stark reality.

I'm also rather concerned that government funding for research seems to be trending towards pure rather than applied. Much of our agricultural research lies in the latter sector and most of the (highly regarded) food and farming research institutes that were around for me to apply for a job at when I graduated 30 years ago have already been closed or absorbed into other institutions. I'm worried the resultant vacuum is being filled by the large corporations who are focused on profiting from the results, rather than being independently led and focusing on addressing the key issues.

If that sounds rather depressing, well I think I need to refer you back to the point I made earlier: Food 2030 is a strategy, not the how to do it. As ever, the devil is in the detail and I'm fairly optimistic the policies resulting from Food 2030 will start to address the issues we face. As long as we all play our part wherever we can to help shape and act on them of course.

7 comments:

  1. On land use for a growing population, you might want to take a look at this Halifax report on housing over the past 50 years (http://www.lloydsbankinggroup.com/media/pdfs/research/2010/50_Years_of_Housing_UK.pdf)

    One of the main trends has been the rise of detached housing and the decline of semis. Of course, this means more land is used per house. Plus the reduced density makes some people feel that more cars are necessary.

    As someone who currently lives in a terrace house (and grows as much food as possible in our tiny space), and who wants to buy a semi to have more food production area, I can't say it seems a good idea to be building so many detached houses -- or flats, unless the residents have access to communal growing space.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Whilst I am all in favour of healthy eating and stategies to promote it, as a school Governor I also think that it has to be linked to the national curriculum.

    Currently years 7-9 (11 to 14 year olds) are taught Food Technology, which looks at the science of what happens during the cooking process, but they are not taught 'proper' cookery like the Domestic Science we had when I were a lass!

    Many families (fortunately not mine!)use ready-made overly processed food and have little or no idea how to cook from scratch, so will not take up something like 'Love your Leftovers'because they're not eating the sort of meals that can be converted into something else the following day.

    Perhaps I could rewrite the Food Tech curriculum?!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. the problem i have with the container-&-flyer approach is that it glosses over the stark realities you mention. it promotes the idea that if a person merely follows the chart & cuts down on take out, that is all that needs to be done. such an approach doesn't give an understanding of the complexities of the food supply systems we have in place. this, in turn, allows corporations license to run free. as for housing, americans, esp., buy into the idea that more is better. when, given population & food issues, i think it's time to look to just the opposite. when it comes to my area, people with lower incomes buy what is cheapest: processed crap. the healthier & more sustainably produced, the more expensive it is. &, once more, americans seem to be believe that more is better when it comes to calorie counts!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great article, the whole business of sustainability and food production was very well articulated in a BBC documentary last year called A Farm For the Future - sadly no longer available on iPlayer althought there is a brief excerpt here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00hs8zp which is worth taking a look at. If it comes around again do try and watch it they come up with some excellent strategies about how food production and our eating habits will need to cahnge in the alarmingly near future.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Anonymous - your last sentence hits the nail bang on the head.

    NG - good to have this info because I thought the NC had been changed to teach the actual skill of cooking. Sounds like you need to get cracking on the rewrite!

    Petoskystone - absolutely . Lots of people seem to forget the reduce element of the reduce reuse recycle mantra don't they?

    Tim - welcome! A counterpoint to that programme is Jimmy's Global Harvest currently showing on Thursdays. I was shocked by most of what's going on in Brazil and Australia, though the latter had some interesting results on preventing salty groundwater reaching the soil's surface and how to retain the same levels of production using half as much water.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Nice post, VP, and bang on the money. As usual with this lot, it's all talk and spin... no action. They never intended any. They just want the announcement headline.

    If they get re-elected, they'll announce it again in 18 months - and again two years after that. Still no action. This is just what they do.

    Until substantive steps are taken, it's all what Americans call 'phoney baloney'. And I think you're right; it will have to be forced through from the top down.

    I love the notion of people 'playing their part', but I don't believe we live in that country any more. It's 'sauve qui peut' in the modern UK. People won't act in the community's best interest. That civic-minded outlook has seeped out of our national character.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Soilman - thanks - your post also helped to crystalise my thoughts on this matter too. I hope that you're wrong about the change in our nature though...

    ReplyDelete

I love reading your comments and welcome thoughtful conversations :)

Comments aiming to link back and give credence to commercial websites will be composted!

4/4/2014 - Anonymous comment spam came back with a vengeance today, so sadly I've had to halt this facility for a while for the sake of commenters who like to read what the genuine follow-up comments say.

If you're having problems leaving comments, you can contact me using the Contact Form at the foot of this page, or via vegplotting at gmail dot com, or @malvernmeet if a quick tweet is more convenient for you. That way I can get things sorted.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...