What’s the secret to this? Children… and making healthy food easier

The first 1,000 days are the most important in your life, the meeting heard.

Nutrition for pregnant women is the first important step to better food.

But after that it’s the role of children that kept emerging as potential solutions.

Children need to learn cookery skills.

But they don’t need to be lured into takeaways on the way home.

But they could see food growing in open space across the city.

And they could learn from their parents who may buy fresh food given the chance.

But the trouble is selling fatty and salty food is highly profitable and is cheaper for many people.

What is facing Birmingham is the need for people to see poor food in the same light as drink driving or not wearing a seat belt.

But as one member of the audience said: “It wasn’t putting diseased organs on cigarette packets that made people stop. It just became more difficult to smoke.”

Right now, it’s easier to eat badly than healthily.


We can be proud of our food safety legislation – Food Futures

Environmental Health Officers can close businesses if they feel there is an imminent risk to health.

Scores on the doors is a powerful system. Consumers have a lot of confidence in a 5-star rating, though they should be aware that the rating was at a point in time.

Environmental Health Officers may inspect a business one year but by the next year the owner may have changed. The Council spends time with the owners of food businesses helping them understand and improve food hygiene. The City Council may not know if a business has changed hands.

Anju Dhir is an Environmental Health Officer with Birmingham City Council she told Food Futures that we can be proud of our food safety legislation but she would like to be able to set conditions before businesses are licensed with compulsory training for staff.

Also pointed out that there are businesses with 0 or 1 star rating. Those businesses don’t put their “scores on the doors”. In Wales businesses are obliged to display their star rating. In England it remains optional.

Food prices will rise in the UK

fromFood prices in the UK will rise in the New Year, a food industry expert says.

Food manufacturers have hedged against price increases post-Brexit but the increases are likely to come into effect in the New Year.

The message was delivered by Jon Miller from JLT Speciality who is part of an international team which looks at what factors will affect the food industry in the coming years.

He says that experts predict that three factors will dominate in the coming years:

  • Water
  • Population growth
  • Climate change

All these factors will have an impact on the food chain and people’s ability to grow and provide food.

But the more optimistic view is that what can happen locally can have an effect on the wider food industry, Jon says.

Andrea Graham introductory thoughts

The Uk is roughly 60% self sufficient in food.

Global volatility is a big issue, farmers are producing for a global larder. A drought in Australia can make food prices in the UK go through the roof.

Geopolitical effects like the EU relations with Russia have affected the price of milk.

At the NFU the Referendum vote is the biggest issue. We don’t know if we will have access to the single market. EU funding into the UK is mostly for agriculture. The weaker pound will start to raise food prices as the costs of input (feed, fertiliser) starts to rise.

In the medium to long-term challenge will be how consumers respond.

Consumers say they want sustainable, traceable British food but actually it seems to come down to price.


The risk of food security is real and pressing – food expert


Food security is not an abstract issue it poses risks, an eminent food researcher says.

John Crawford from Rothamstead, the world’s leading agricultural research centre says that a series of problems are posed to the world by people not being able to source food.

The issue is consistently in the top five of issues, he says.

Population is growing and will break the 11 billion barrier.

Food security played a key role in sparking the disruption of the Arab Spring.

Emerging economies are becoming wealthier and put extra pressure on the food supply.

There will be an unsustainable demand for food.

The problems posed by food are complex but this is a good thing, he says. It means you are able to change things by making adjustments in other areas.


Food futures: the specialists

Here’s a bit about each of the specialists taking part in the discussion this evening.

Mark Rogers

(@MKMRogers) is Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council. He chaired our first Annual Meeting last November when the Food Standard Agency CEO, Catherine Brown was our guest speaker.

John Crawford

Associate Director of Science, Rothamsted Research  He’s a top-notch scientist, a theoretical physicist by background, recruited to Rothamsted in 2013. Rothamsted is a major partner of the new Agrimetrics Centre with Reading University.

Anju Dhir

An Environmental Health Officer at Birmingham City Council. She’s had considerable experience of the food sector in the city from a safety, assurance and integrity perspective.

Andrea Graham

Head of Policy at the National Farmers Union
She’s a former scientist, with a PhD in Agricultural Botany from Reading. Her work puts her into contact with farms and agriculture across the UK. She’s also heavily involved in the NFU’s advice to Defra since the referendum.

Jon Miller

Partner and leader of the UK Regional Food & Agri Practice at insurance broker JLT Specialty (@JLTGroup). JLT Specialty is a global organisation. Jon set up their UK Food & Agri Pracice a few years ago, and now heads it up. He has therefore considerable knowledge about the food sector, from farming to large corporations.

Nutrition and public health

Food poverty, food insecurity

Food safety and integrity

Urban food growing

Food and the city economy

Global food security

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