Politics

'Food security should be part of our DNA': Would a national food plan help combat poverty?

Fritwell Community Fridge

Labour Party candidate Andrew Pakes has published an essay calling for a national food plan to help combat poverty and make UK supply chains more resilient. 

Pakes, standing in the forthcoming general election for Labour in Peterborough, explained through the independent think tank Social Market Foundation (SMF) that the next government should set food production targets in order to promote economic growth and sustainability. 

“Food security should rank alongside energy security as part of our DNA for a more prosperous, sustainable and resilient country”, he said in the essay, part of a new SMF collection written by political candidates across the party spectrum. 

Pakes explained that the food plan should lay out proposals to mitigate the risks that food inflation, the war in Ukraine and extreme weather pose to the farming and food sector in the UK. 

The food plan is similar to 2024 proposals from the Scottish government, the National Good Food Nation Plan, which aims to establish more sustainable food supplies, reduce child food poverty and reduce food waste in the country.

The Labour candidate explained that the food plan “doesn’t have to be about increasing spending, but using public leadership and expenditure more wisely and in a joined-up way to deliver greater productivity, sustainability and better public outcomes.”

He added that food production targets in the UK should be supported by regular reports on food security to Parliament, with additional food security impact assessments.

The UK did have similar proposals in place – the 2022 Food Strategy, which focused on measures to make England’s food supply more affordable and sustainable. However experts have noted that some of these measures have since been shelved.

The essay comes as it was announced on Wednesday (20 March) that food inflation fell to 5% in February after inflation relating to food costs reached a high of 19.2% in March 2023.

Overall inflation figures fell to 3.4%, the lowest inflation has been since September 2021.

Aveek Bhattacharya, interim director at SMF, said: “The next parliament is likely to look quite different to the current one, with a number of new faces worth watching, as they bring new ideas and priorities. 

“At the Social Market Foundation, we’re keen to convene and participate in the new policy discussions they are sure to prompt, and I can think of no better place to start than Andrew Pakes’ essay on the need for a national food plan.

“From resilience to pay and conditions, poverty to ill health, it is clear that our food system does not work as well as it should. The proposal for a national food plan is a welcome contribution to the debate over what we want from our food system and how to achieve it.”

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