Assessing the Birmingham Food Strategy

As part of the Healthy Food City Forum, we were asked to assess a draft Birmingham Food Strategy earlier this month.

We recommended that the Strategy itself, as well as the draft is assessed according to the following criteria:

  • How does it support all Birmingham households to have economic access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food?
  • How does it support food safety, assurance and integrity, in particular regarding inspection, sampling and testing?
  • What measures does it propose to curb the activities of global corporations that make and promote ‘food’ and beverage products that carry standard-rate VAT?
  • What contribution does it make to the city’s preparedness for future food shortages and scarcities?
  • How far does it reflect a reliance on individual behaviour, and how much on measures to build and promote collective resilience?
  • How does it propose to monitor all of the above?

What such a criteria-based assessment would do is highlight the challenges that local government can be responsible for, and what it can’t. It would also illuminate challenges, such as inspection, sampling and testing that currently under local government remit, that they simply don’t have the resources to carry out.

So far, there appears to be no evidence that this criterion-based approach has been taken up.

This concerns us because:

.A final note: In our Annual Report 2020-21, published in September, we noted this was the fourth Annual Report in which we’d warned that climate change, resource depletion and population pressures will impact the UK food supply system . . .  Many of the impacts are no longer in the future. They’re right here, right now.

Already in the UK, millions cannot access the safe, nutritious food they need. Empty supermarket shelves are a regular sight. Brexit is proving, as many said it would, a major threat to UK food supplies. Meanwhile, further external threats to our food supplies are coming at us with a ferocity and frequency unimaginable even a couple of years ago.

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Only a criteria -based assessment of any strategy can provide insight into how effective it will be.

It is a moot point, of course, to choose which criteria to use. The six listed above? Or others in addition to or instead of them?

 

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