Written by Tamsyn Harrod-Beck
Earlier this month, the final part of the National Food Strategy (NFS) was published. The NFS team has completed a robust review and brought into sharp focus the need to overhaul the UK’s food system to improve the health of the nation and protect the environment.
There are 14 well-researched recommendations set out by the NFS that I hope the Good Food Revolution (GFR) partnership can support to implement locally in Gloucestershire. The GFR partnership is collective of people and organisations in Gloucestershire working towards a thriving food and farming system - one that supports human health and enhances our ecosystems.
Organisations within the GFR partnership are already working across many of the 14 recommendations within Gloucestershire. At first glance, the recommendations seem to be solely in the control of the national government, like the Sugar and Salt Reformulation tax, extending the eligibility of free school meals and guaranteeing the budget for agricultural payments to 2029. And yes, they will have to ‘sign on the dotted line’ to bring these recomendations to life. What we must not lose sight of, however, is that for these recommendations to be deployed successfully across the UK, we must have an exceptional way of working together at a county level.
For example, GFR knows there is work to be done within Gloucestershire to ensure the current free school meal eligibility is being deployed as effectively as possible. Let alone an extended programme as recommended by the NFS. Ditto for the healthy start vouchers scheme, which Sustain reported as having as low as 55% uptake in some areas (nationally). Partners suggest Gloucestershire is not different from this national picture.
We must get locally organised now to address the ‘bugs’ in how things currently work in Gloucestershire. Whether it be working relationships, technical systems or cultural barriers between organisations, these need to be addressed, so when the NFS recommendations are being carried forward in 2022 Gloucestershire can hit the ground running in deploying the recommendations. By bringing together the local authorities, National Farmers Union, local food companies, charities and educational institutions the GFR partnership’s hopes by default to assist in this ‘debugging.’
Some of the current work within the partnership includes:
● The flagship GREAT programme, a trailblazing £398K regenerative agriculture programme for Gloucestershire farmers, growers and rural food start-ups
● Bringing together 35 cross-county organisations involved in food equity to identify strategic work areas, including how to improve the quality of emergency food provision, and ensure Free School Meals/Healthy Start Voucher programmes are being deployed effectively in county. (recommendations 4,5,6,7)
● Working to improve data collection and analysis in county related to food production, farming, environmental land management and natural capital (recommendations 9 & 12).
● Raising awareness within Gloucestershire County Council and LEP of the seismic change Gloucestershire’s farming community is experiencing at an economic level with the removal of the Basic Payment Scheme subsidy and the impacts this will have across county.
● Supporting the deployment of the Crown Commercial Services dynamic food procurement pilot in the South West (launching in 2022). This pilot looks to support SME producers to gain access to public procurement contracts and is backed by the NFS. (recommendation 13)
● Investigating the option to pilot the Soil Association’s Food for Life model (as deployed in Scotland) to support Gloucestershire schools in their procurement of locally produced food
With a set of recommendations laid out in black and white at a national level, the GFR and other food and farming partnerships across the country have a mandate to push on and organise around these themes locally. The NFS should make it much easier than it has been in the past for partnerships to work across the local public health, economy and environmental agenda.
This has been, and is, hard work, even for the passionate and their efforts are now (finally) getting the deserved attention at national level.
Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Jenny - firstname.lastname@example.org - if you want to find out more or get involved in any way towards this effort. And contact Bea - email@example.com - for more info on the GREAT project.