Our food system is failing — and it’s about to get dramatically worse

I hope I’m wrong. But there’s no evidence to suggest I am.

Imagine we had a Government whose national food strategy was for everyone to have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food.

We’ve described how that could be here and here. And it’s not that difficult.

Brexit is now a self-inflicted attack on our food security, a major strategic error.

Yet, from where the Government is now AND assuming they want everyone to have access to sufficient, safe nutritious food . . .

What should they be doing?

Here’s a framework to help you think about it, populated it with a few how-questions about tactical actions.

*This is the commitment the UK Government made under the 1996 Rome Declaration, a commitment reiterated in the EFRA Select Committee Report on Covid and food supply.

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Notice the similarities and one important difference if we look at the strategy and tactics at a household level:

The difference between the levels, with knock-on consequences, is that the answer to the question why is quantitively different.

This quantitative difference makes for qualitatively different answers to the how question.

How would you populate this household-level framework from your perspective? From the perspective of someone much richer than you? Much poorer than you? Living on  farm? Living in a densely populated area, such as Birmingham?

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Decision-making within a complex system:

  1. Ask complicated why you’re doing x, y or z if you’re going up the system, and, in this instance, the answer will be a simple yes or no.
  2. And frame complicated how questions that require simple answers if you’re going down the system.

note: There’s a useful adage (see this blogpost) about how to navigate within a complex system: “Questions should be complicated and answers simple.”

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And what of the “National Food Strategy”?
We have a National Food Strategy in the making. A Part One, authored by Henry Dimbleby, was published in late July to (I quote) support this country through the turbulence caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, and to prepare for the end of the EU Exit transition period on 31 December 2020. 

Nowhere did he articulate an answer as to why what he was saying had relevance to a strategy or what the “National Strategy’ would be, nor how it could be accomplished.

Instead, my [i.e. Dimbleby’s] recommendations cover two main themes:

  • Making sure the sure a generation of our most disadvantaged children do not get left behind.
  • Grasping the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to decide what kind of trading nation we want to be; i.e. dealing with the consequences of Brexit.

Where would you put his “themes” in the national framework above?

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The Birmingham Food Council is a Community Interest Company registered in England and Wales number 8931789