Jul 1, 2024 | Food & farming

Food Foundation publishes manifesto pre-election

by Anne MacLennan

Food is basic to life, but our current mainstream food system contributes to climate change, environmental destruction and to poor health. A recent headline, ‘UK children shorter, fatter and sicker’ was based on a report from the Food Foundation in which they found a 30% increase in obesity among 10 to 11-year-old children, type 2 diabetes up 22% for under 25s in just five years, and the height of five-year-olds has been falling since 2013. These changes have impacted healthy life expectancy, such that today’s babies are forecast to have one year less of good health than babies born a decade ago. Children need ‘sufficient calories and nutrients to be free from hunger and diseases of nutritional deficiency, while being protected from the bombardment of ultra-processed, highly sugary and salty foods that most often contribute to excess calorie intake but lack vitamins, minerals, fibre, healthy fats and quality protein.’ The Foundation blames ‘shocking’ poverty and deprivation leading to food insecurity along with ‘aggressive promotion’ of cheap junk food. All of this is aggravated by the cost of living crisis and adds to NHS burden into the future.

With this in mind, the Foundation launched its own manifesto pre-election, for children and adults. They demand that incoming politicians address five areas: availability of healthy and sustainable food, the junk food cycle, investment in children’s diets, ease of eating sustainably, and unleashing the full potential of the food system.

They list ten ‘Cost Free Policies’ for nourishing the nation to be initiated in the first 100 days of the new Government.  These include implementation of existing legislation on junk food advertising, guidance and updated standards on baby, toddler and school foods, public service procurement, business reporting requirements, a horticultural strategy for fruit and vegetables, and cross-party work towards a new Food Bill. It is a very readable format, laying out why it matters, the existing policy framework, who is responsible for action and suggesting ‘quick wins’ for each policy.

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